Mason, Putnam Counties File Suit Over Redistricting

Point Pleasant Register (WV) - Saturday, October 22, 2011
Author: Beth Sergent,
CHARLESTON - The controversial redistricting plan passed by the West Virginia Legislature this summer now has a fight on its hands. 

A lawsuit was filed against the new redistricting plan with the West Virginia Supreme Court early Friday morning by Jennifer Scragg Karr, Esq., of Winfield, who represents county commissions from both Mason and Putnam counties. 

Karr deemed the new plan "unconstitutional" in her argument filed with the supreme court. She states if the new redistricting law isn't struck down, "the people of Putnam and Mason Counties, and many others similarly situated across the State of West Virginia will be forced to endure another 10 years of inadequate, unequal representation in the West Virginia House of Delegates." 

The suits states the people of Mason County have been denied their own delegate for approximately 20 years and under the new plan, are still guaranteed none. Karr says it's difficult to ascertain the reasoning behind the plan and hence it may be "irrational, arbitrary or capricious" - adding, although Mason County has sufficient population for its own delegate and Putnam County has the population to support three delegates, both counties are divided and forced to share representation. 

The suit states for nearly 20 years, "Mason County has been divided in half to create portions of two delegate districts even though it has had the population to support a delegate all on its own. Its people have been outnumbered by Putnam County residents in the past two reapportionment plans and it has become generally known that because of it, Mason County cannot elect its own delegate. With the new apportionment of House Bill 201, Putnam County is now placed in a similar situation." 

In addition, the filing argues Putnam County Clerk and Putnam County Commission will now require more ballot styles at taxpayers' expense every election because instead of being divided into three delegate districts, Putnam County will comprise five. 

Also, the people of Putnam County who are entitled to three representatives in the House of Delegates are now only guaranteed one. 

Karr reminds the court that "approximately 10 years ago, after the previous delegate apportionment of 2001, the Mason County Commission petitioned this Court to prevent another 10 years of inadequate representation in the West Virginia House of Delegates. 

The Court refused to hear the Writ. Consequently, Mason County has spent the past 10 years without any of its residents representing it in the West Virginia House of Delegates." In addition to asking the honorable court to declare the new redistricting plan in violation of the state's constitution, the suit asks the case be expedited so the court "may do substantial justice before the filing period for candidates to the House of Delegates begins on Jan. 9, 2012."