2020 marks last election before House of Delegates undergoes sweeping change

Transition to single-member district format to begin after Census
Published: Oct. 5, 2020 at 6:12 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, W.Va (WDTV) - The makeup of the West Virginia House of Delegates is about to get a makeover.

Starting after this upcoming election, the state will transition to a single-member district form of government.

Currently, the House is made up of 100 members from 67 districts.

In 2022, voters will elect one representative per district. Lawmakers will redraw the lines after the 2020 census.

Del. Ben Queen (R-Harrison) voted for a bill to support the switch in 2018 that passed the House by a 72-25 vote.

Queen is one of four delegates representing Harrison and part of Taylor County, just one district that will change during the next election cycle.

“The goal and the hope is to have more of a one-on-one relationship with your local representative,” Queen said.

There are already 47 single-member districts in the state.

The rest of the House includes:

- 22 members elected from 11 two-member districts,

- 18 members elected from 6 three-member districts,

- 8 members elected from 2 four-member districts, and

- 5 members elected from 1 five-member district.

A breakdown of what districts have multiple members is at the bottom of this story.

A large percentage of north-central West Virginia’s population is included in a multi-member district, including part of Monongalia County, which is the only one with five representatives in the state.

One of those members is Del. Barbara Evans Fleischauer (D-Monongalia), who voted against the legislation in 2018. The Monongalia County delegates, all Democrats, call themselves “The Fab Five” and frequently vote and work together on bills.

“When we vote together, all five of us, we can form a pretty meaningful bloc,” Fleischauer said. “I think that is an advantage we would like to retain.”

Not only will it change who represents you in Charleston, but it will also change how those candidates campaign.

“I’ll admit, I like my multi-member district,” Queen said. “You get to vote for four people this coming election. I don’t necessarily have to run against people and you vote for four people and I just ask that you save a vote for me.”

Fleischauer argues the switch makes it harder for groups of candidates to work together during campaigns.

“When you have single-member districts, it allows you to target people,” Fleischauer said. “It’s much harder to target five people. If anyone wants to run for office, that’s not your first wish is to have all resources pushed against you.”West Virginia and New Hampshire are the only states in the country that have more than three representatives from a single district.

10 states currently have multimember districts.

In a WVU research article published in 2017that made the case for single-member districts, the author argued the best way to make the change is with a constitutional amendment.

Otherwise, the legislature can switch back and forth, leading to inefficiency and voter confusion, the author says.

But it’s something Fleischauer says should be on the table if Democrats ever retake the majority.

“I think it could be unconstitutional, I think it’s bad locally, and I think it’s bad strategically,” she said.

She’s also argued the switch makes it harder for women or people of color to hold office.

But Queen says the move will be better for West Virginians in the long run. He said it would allow for more areas of the state to have representation in Charleston,

“How can the Western end of Monongalia County and the Eastern end of Monongalia County be represented fairly? For instance, all five seats could come theoretically come from Downtown Morgantown.”

Fleischauer said she has concerns about the possibility of gerrymandering once the district map is redrawn. That won’t happen until 2021 when legislative leadership will form redistricting committees to work with the Redistricting Office to draw new boundaries. They’ll generate reports and maps needed for redistricting bill, which typically happens during a special session, according to the state legislature’s website.

Multi-member districts:

District 1: Brooke (part), Hancock - 2 members

District 3: Ohio (part) - 2 members

District 4: Marshall - 2 members

District 10: Wood (part) - 3 members

District 13: Jackson (part), Mason (part), Putnam (part) - 2 members

District 16: Cabell (part), Lincoln (part) - 3 members

District 17: Cabell (part), Wayne (part) - 2 members

District 19: Wayne (part) - 2 members

District 22: Boone (part), Lincoln (part), Logan (part), Putnam (part) - 2 members

District 24: Boone (part), Logan (part), Wyoming (part) - 2 members

District 27: Mercer (part), Raleigh (part) - 3 members

District 28: Monroe (part), Raleigh (part), Summers (part) - 2 members

District 32: Clay (part), Fayette, Kanawha (part), Nicholas (part), Raleigh (part) - 3 members

District 35: Kanawha (part) - 4 members

District 36: Kanawha (part) - 3 members

District 42: Greenbrier (part), Monroe (part), Summers (part) - 2 members

District 43: Pocahontas, Randolph (part) - 2 members

District 48: Harrison, Taylor (part) - 4 members

District 50: Marion (part) - 3 members

District 51: Monongalia (part) - 5 members

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