The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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August 26, 2011

Redistricting lawsuit?

Raleigh County Commission looking into challenging plan

Is Raleigh County about to join what could prove to be a parade of lawsuits challenging the controversy-ridden redistricting plan for the House of Delegates?

Nothing has been decided, but Raleigh County Commission President John Aliff took the first step in that direction Thursday, directing county attorney Bill Roop to study a suit being prepared by the Putnam County Commission.

“We need to look to see if, in fact, we are going to contemplate a lawsuit,” Aliff said.

“And, would we be better doing it as an individual county, or with another county? Those things would have to be looked at.”

Aliff shares a consensus across Raleigh that the county was treated unfairly by the plan, which slices it up and parcels out huge swaths of precincts to neighboring Fayette, Summers and Wyoming counties.

“Anytime that you’re cut up the way we’ve been cut up certainly is not pleasant at all,” the commission president said.

“We’re not pleased with that. What we need to do is look at where we go from here, what’s the best course of action. We’re investigating that at the present time. Hopefully, we’ll have a decision rather quickly.”

In another development, state Republican Chairman Mike Stuart vowed to use a Freedom of Information Act request to get all records of communications among Speaker Rick Thompson, D-Wayne, Majority Leader Brent Boggs, D-Braxton, Majority Whip Mike Caputo, D-Marion, and acting Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin on the redistricting.

There is no doubt in commissioner Dave Tolliver’s mind that Raleigh County needs to haul the House of Delegates into court.

“We’ve got the shaft on this,” he said.

Tolliver pointed out the plan robs Raleigh of the Lanark-Stanaford area, swallowing up Beckley Appalachian Regional Hospital in the process and handing that portion over to Fayette.

Summers will drain off precincts in the Shady Spring-Daniels area, while Wyoming County invades up through Bolt Mountain, following the Old Eccles Road.

“Anywhere from 30,000 to 40,000 people in Raleigh County are going to be affected by this redistricting,” Tolliver said.

“Absolutely, it’s unfair. It just isn’t right. Raleigh County basically did not lose any population, about half of a percent, out of 80,000-plus.”

By a 2-1 vote, the Putnam County Commission agreed to challenge the House plan in court, and a Kanawha County attorney, Thornton Cooper, has indicated he intends to file litigation of his own.

“It’s really going to be a mess, as far as voter registration is concerned,” Tolliver said.

“They took half of the registered voters in Raleigh and just split them all up.”

Tolliver said the county is likely to incur a major expense since it is obligated to send all affected voters a letter of explanation.

“Everybody has to be notified prior to the May election, if their precinct is changed,” he said.

“It’s going to be a nightmare.”

The plan for Raleigh defies logic, Tolliver said, noting that the two freshman Republican delegates — Rick Snuffer and John O’Neal — are in a Beckley district, while Delegate Rick Moye, D-Raleigh, is in a single-member district in the Crab Orchard area.

“The funniest thing is Linda Sumner’s district,” he said of the veteran Republican.

“You have basically a straight line from the Old Eccles Road, then go up and make a little circle around Linda Sumner’s house to put her in another district.”

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