GOP might keep redistricting fight alive


CHARLESTON -- The state Supreme Court won't touch the House of Delegates and state Senate redistricting plans, but the state Republican Party isn't letting the matter die.

"While we maintain great respect for our Supreme Court, we are very disappointed that the court rejected every argument in favor of a more fair and representative system for selecting our elected representatives," Mike Stuart, chairman of the West Virginia Republican Party, said regarding the Court's Nov. 23 order. "We reserve the option of moving this matter to the federal court, and we will consider all options for seeking fairness in redistricting."

In an order issued Wednesday afternoon, the Court voted 5-0 not to change the state Senate districts. The Justices voted 4-1 not to change the House districts. Justice Brent Benjamin dissented on the House ruling and likely will file a dissenting opinion soon.

Five separate lawsuits alleged the Legislature was trying to gerrymander districts when lawmakers drew new district lines, which is done every 10 years following U.S. Census figures. Two of the suits were directed at the Senate plans, while the other three took aim at House redistricting maps. Arguments took place Nov. 17.

"Although the court rejected the legitimate claims of a broken redistricting scheme, the fact remains that the public was ill-served by the special interests that drew new electoral districts that favored elected officials at the expense of hard-working citizens throughout the state," Stuart said.

Stuart also said the entire redistricting process had problems.

"From the beginning ... there was a complete lack of transparency, a lack of fairness and a complete rejection of the best interests of the people of West Virginia," Stuart said. "It was a sham from day one with the protection of incumbency being the primary and only concern for the liberal Democrats that created this shameful result.

"The redistricting process was a joke in which the outcome was pre-determined. House leaders and the House Redistricting Committee could care less what anyone thought on the issue. They did what they wanted regardless of the best interests of the public. Redistricting was about re-election, not redistricting."

Stuart also used a Thanksgiving analogy for the process.

"Fitting for Thanksgiving, House leaders served us up a turkey on this one," he said. "I just wish this turkey did not come at the expense of good folks that simply want a better electoral system that respects the principle of one man, one vote and fairness and equity in selecting our leaders."

Stuart also called out Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin.

"Governor Tomblin's failure to lead and the ruse orchestrated by House and Senate leaders on redistricting will be a campaign issue in 2012," he said. "We are eager to move this matter to the court of public opinion."

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