The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

June 1, 2011

Make yourself heard


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The voter turnout last month for both the Beckley city election and the special gubernatorial primary still smarts.

Again, not even two out of every 10 registered voters bothered to cast a ballot during either of those important elections.

Voter apathy is both frustrating and worrisome. But we’ll remain positive and hope that people really do care who represents them in public office despite the nearly invisible turnout.

And so our efforts must continue.

There is no vote being taken tonight, but members of the West Virginia Senate panel assigned the chore of drawing new state and federal legislative districts will be in Beckley to listen to the public and gather information before making decisions later this year.

The public forum will be held from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at the Hulett C. Smith Theatre at Tamarack.

We can’t emphasize enough just how important district lines can be. Many times in recent elections, those who were victorious won by very slim margins. If a line were a little further this way or that, the outcome may have been different.

In our region the latest census shows that population has declined over the past decade. Therefore, district lines will be changed since lawmakers have a duty to make sure the proper balance is struck according to where, and how many people are located in a particular area.

The question of single delegate districts in the Legislature has also garnered much attention of late and will likely be brought up as well.

So this is your opportunity to help decide on the new “footprint” if you will, and it’s something we’ll have to deal with for the next 10 years.

And rather sadly, it will likely be the only chance to be heard at a public forum in our region since the House redistricting panel isn’t expected to follow suit and go on the road to meet with constituents like the Senate has.

Senate Majority Leader John Unger, D-Berkeley, said recently this is “not just an exercise of politics as usual” and backed it up with the fact that it “has never been done before,” referring to a task force conducting regional hearings.

He has also said the lines should be drawn “for communities” and that taking personalities and politics “out” of the process “is what makes sense.”

We’ll take Unger at his word for that and encourage all who are interested to be at Tamarack tonight to express your opinions and thoughts.

Get involved.