On Tuesday, a three-judge federal panel said West Virginia lawmakers must redraw the state’s three congressional districts by Jan. 17 or the court will do it for them.
If the Legislature doesn’t act, the panel said it will “likely” rely on one of two maps that were presented to the court as exhibits.
There was a good deal of confusion Tuesday about what each of these maps does.
(Unfortunately, I compounded the confusion in early versions of this story –which is now corrected online — by incorrectly describing the effect of these maps.)
Based on maps submitted to the court, here’s a graphic the Daily Mail‘s graphic designer Kevin Cade did for Wednesday’s paper:
In a bit more detail:
[Senate Majority Leader John] Unger [, D-Berkeley,] has created a map that is designed to resist amendments and possibly prompt a court challenge if lawmakers change it too much.
His plan puts Republican incumbents Shelley Moore Capito and David McKinley into the same district. Because of this, Republicans accuse Unger, D-Berkeley, of trying to create an open seat for himself to run for. Unger denies this.
Unger said the map was drawn without regard for party or for incumbents.
Unger’s map comes with an accompanying chart that shows numeric values related to “compactness,” something he believes the districts must have to sustain a challenge in federal court. The name on the computer file that holds those figures is “Perfect Map.”
Without compactness and identical populations, Unger said the courts may throw out the state’s maps.
He said if anyone departs from the plan he introduced, he thinks the courts will look into just why that was. If the changes were to protect an incumbent or to make it easier for one party or another to win, Unger believes the courts may frown on the Legislature’s work.
Unger also said he wants the media to use those numbers to hold other lawmakers’ feet to the fire using his plan.
“I would just urge them to explain why they would deviate,” Unger said.
Unger said his map creates three districts almost exactly equal in population. The 3rd Congressional District is only one person more populous than either the 1st or 2nd Congressional Districts. That’s something he was able to do because for the first time in state history counties are being divided into different U.S. House districts.
He said the plan also keeps together areas of the state with common interests, like coal and manufacturing.
According to an early estimate of the plan’s potential effect on voting by a Republican official, the 1st becomes more Democratic but the 3rd actually becomes more Republican under the Unger plan.
Unger’s proposed 2nd would be a mixed bag – there will be more registered Democrats but fewer people who voted for Barack Obama in 2008.
In other words, the plan may negatively effect all of the incumbents, including Democrat Nick Rahall in the 3rd.
Of note: Unger again told me Tuesday that he has no intention of running for Congress.
The Cooper plan, known as the “Cooper No. 4,” is based on a proposal by South Charleston lawyer Thornton Cooper who intervened in the redistricting suit. Here’s a PDF that describes the specifics of the Cooper plan. It keeps in separate districts Capito [from Charleston, in Kanawha County], McKinley [from Wheeling, which straddles Ohio and Marshall counties] and Rahall [from Beckley, in Raleigh County].