Still no opinion on redistricting

By Steve Korris | Jan 19, 2012



CHARLESTON – Justices of the Supreme Court of Appeals who approved a new map of state legislative districts on Nov. 23 hadn't explained the decision as of Jan. 18.

The four who found that the map doesn't violate the state Constitution filed no opinion but wrote that Justice Thomas McHugh would deliver one in due course.

They wrote that a dissent from Justice Brent Benjamin would follow in due course.

The Court's Nov. 23 decision didn't interpret the Constitution, but it allowed Secretary of State Natalie Tennant to prepare for state legislative races this year.

She can't fully prepare for the elections because federal judges scrapped the map of the state's three Congressional districts.

On Jan. 3, Justice Robert King of the Fourth Circuit in Richmond and District Judge Irene Berger of Charleston found the map's population deviations unconstitutional.

Although every Congressional map in West Virginia history has followed county lines, King and Berger held that legislators can subdivide counties.

The map they enjoined would have matched one in force the last 10 years, except for transfer of Mason County from the Second District to Third.

It would have provided for 615,991 persons in the First District, 620,862 in the Second, and 616,141 in the Third.

District Judge John Bailey of Martinsburg dissented, writing that King and Berger failed to give sufficient deference to the Legislature.

Acting Senate President Jeffrey Kessler and Speaker Richard Thompson of the House of Delegates moved to stay the injunction pending appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

King and Berger denied a stay on Jan. 10.

Candidates must file by Jan. 28, unless the Legislature enacts a later deadline.

King and Berger wrote that an appeal would likely make it more difficult, or impossible, for Tennant and candidates for Congress to comply with current deadlines.

They wrote that whether the Supreme Court rejects the appeal or vacates their order, Tennant will have endured aggravation and inconvenience.

Kessler and Thompson hadn't appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court as of Jan. 18.

They moved for a stay, according to lawyer Thornton Cooper of South Charleston, one of those who successfully challenged the congressional map.

In an interview on Jan. 18, Cooper said Chief Justice John Roberts would rule on it.

Cooper awaits a new map with extra interest as a potential candidate.

"Because of the popularity of Congresswoman Capito, it is difficult to find Democratic candidates who are willing to take the chance of being trounced by her in the general election," he wrote in a Jan. 9 brief. "If, by the evening of the last day of the filing period, no other Democrat has filed to run in the congressional district in which South Charleston is located, Mr. Cooper plans to recruit himself to make sure that there is a Democratic congressional candidate on his ballot in the 2012 general election.

"However, he hopes that some other Democrat will run for the congressional seat in question."

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