CHARLESTON, W.Va.—Critics of West Virginia’s redrawn Congressional districts must petition a state court to challenge the redistricting further.
U.S. Circuit Judge Robert B. King on Friday dismissed what remains of a lawsuit brought by the Jefferson County Commission and lawyer Thornton Cooper.
Friday’s order allows the plaintiffs to pursue alleged violations of the West Virginia Constitution in state court. Among other arguments, the plaintiffs cite the state constitution’s call for compact districts. The 2nd District, which includes Jefferson County, stretches across the state.
The dismissal follows a September ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court, rejecting its arguments that the new districts violated the U.S. Constitution.
The 2010 Census prompted the Legislature to redraw the three U.S. House districts in 2011. Lawmakers simply shifted Mason County from the 2nd District to the 3rd District.
In a December interview, Senate Majority Leader John Unger who chaired the chamber’s Select Committee on Redistricting, said that opponents of the redistricting plan hadn’t given up fighting to have the Congressional district map that was drawn overturned.
If the state Supreme Court ultimately should rule that the 2nd Congressional District is compact, Unger, D-Berkeley/Jefferson had said he would want to know what would not be considered compact by the court.
The three federal judges appointed to hear the redistricting case did not decide whether the districts as drawn met the state’s constitutional requirement that they be compact, but two of the three jurists advised in their memorandum opinion that “a proposal’s compactness is best evaluated in holistic terms and not by viewing one or two districts in isolation.”
The court’s opinion said identifying the geographic core of the 2nd District as drawn would prove virtually impossible, describing it as “snaking for the most part in single-county narrowness across the breadth of the state.”
It also noted that the 2nd District cities of Charleston and Martinsburg, the county seats of the first and second most populated counties in the state, are about 300 miles apart by highway.