As a whole, southern West Virginia’s population decreased during the last decade. And while the changes were slight in some areas, the losses here and growth in other locations across the state have set the stage for lawmakers to draw new district lines to decide where our representation in both Charleston and Washington will come from.
Our state legislature has been charged with the task of determining how voting districts will be made up and to this point our reaction to their efforts is rather mixed.
The Senate has wasted no time in addressing the issue and Sen. John Unger, D. Berkeley, is chairing the upper chamber’s work. He has established a schedule of meetings to be held statewide in order to obtain public input (locally, the group will meet June 1 at 7 p.m. in Beckley at Tamarack).
Unger has emphasized that he wants the process to be completely transparent and open, something he said didn’t happen 10 years ago when he was a younger legislator. Gerrymandering, at its finest.
Transparency hasn’t been a strong suit for government in West Virginia in the past. Steps have been taken, and plenty of rhetoric has been tossed around that claims we are changing that here in the Mountain State. To that we say, slowly, and certainly still not surely.
We must acknowledge that it has gotten better, but too many meetings and decisions are being made behind closed doors or in other private settings.
So we applaud Unger and encourage him to stick with his plan.
Now as for the House, the movement to take up redistricting hasn’t been too strong yet. We hope the pace quickens soon. Maybe after the special gubernatorial primary is over in a couple of weeks we’ll see some action.
Let’s hope so, because making determinations on district lines are vitally important to us and the decisions that will be made are ones we must live with for the next 10 years.