By STEVE ROBERTS
CHARLESTON -- It's now up to the West Virginia Supreme Court to correct what the Legislature just couldn't bring itself to do.
The five members of the court have an opportunity to do the right and just thing, and strike down the enormously flawed plan to redistrict the House of Delegates.
The court now has an excellent opportunity to show why it has earned its current reputation as a hard-working, stable, and thoughtful judicial body. In recent years, the court has won the respect of citizens throughout the state.
The West Virginia Constitution is clear on the subject of equal representation — "Every citizen shall be entitled to equal representation in the government, and, in all apportionment methods of representation."
In basic terms, the court has the chance to undo not only a clear-cut violation of the state constitution, but a serious wrong perpetrated by the Legislature on the citizens of West Virginia.
By making redistricting all about preserving incumbent House leaders, the Legislature failed to deliver a reasonable and constitutional solution.
Despite overwhelming opposition from citizens and public officials throughout the state, the Legislature did the unacceptable by placing the preservation of incumbents ahead of embracing the concept that our American democracy is built on — one person, one vote.
As it stands now, some legislative districts in the state will continue to elect more delegates than others, which means voters in these multi-member districts have more power than those in smaller districts.
In our representative form of government, that is not acceptable.
Once again, West Virginia finds itself outside the national mainstream.
We continue to be only one of two states that have multi-member districts with more than three members. And we are only one of 10 states that still use multi-member districts.
Since passage of the redistricting bill on Aug. 20, there has been outrage across the state. In fact, support for the plan has come almost exclusively from those legislators seeking to preserve their seats in the House of Delegates.
It is significant that many members of the Legislature, including a number of Democrats, voted against the final plan. Notably, the bill was passed in the state Senate by a single vote.
The West Virginia Chamber of Commerce respectfully urges the court to consolidate the three filed lawsuits and send the plan back with a judicial mandate ordering the passage of a new bill that strictly adheres to the one person-one vote principle.
The court must embrace its constitutional authority of overseeing the protection of the West Virginia Constitution.
West Virginians are essentially down to their "last out."
Unless the court mandates a new redistricting plan for the House of Delegates, all of us will be forced to live with this politically generated plan until the next Census in 2021.
West Virginians deserve full judicial review when the stakes are this high.
Roberts is president of the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce.