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Only Minor Tweaks Made to New West Virginia Map

West Virginia’s Democratic-controlled Legislature late last week passed a Congressional redistricting plan that makes only minor changes to the lines of the state’s three districts.

It moves Mason County, population 27,300, from Republican Rep. Shelley Moore Capito’s 2nd district to Democratic Rep. Nick Rahall’s 3rd district but leaves the political contours of both districts almost exactly the same.

In 2010, of the more than 7,000 voters in the county who cast a ballot, 61 percent voted for now-Sen. Joe Manchin (D) and 69 percent voted for Capito.

Capito campaign spokesman Kent Gates told Roll Call that the Congresswoman was happy with the new map. “She’s pleased that the Legislature recognized the need to keep the districts intact as much as possible,” he said.

Rahall, who is serving his 18th term, said in a statement that he looks “forward to working with the people of Mason County in order to address their needs and opportunities, and to representing them in the Congress.”

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin (D) will likely sign the map into law soon, according to his spokeswoman.

“At the very earliest he might sign it this Friday,” Tomblin Director of Communications Jacqueline Proctor said in a voice mail. “But it will probably be next week, depending on when we get the bill.”

Republican Rep. David McKinley’s 1st district is unchanged under the new map.

Why didn’t the Democratic Legislature tweak the districts to be more favorable to Democratic candidates? The votes weren’t there.

“The other plan that we looked at, that would have helped a Democrat in the 1st district, we couldn’t get enough Senators to vote for that plan because it affected the counties that they represent,” state Senate Majority Whip D. Richard Browning (D) said. “I’m the Whip, and I judged the support for the bill that would have given the Democrats a little better edge in the 1st district” to be lacking, he added, noting he was “a little bit displeased” with the final outcome of the process. He said he had hoped the final map would have made the eastern panhandle of the state whole, instead of leaving it split between the 1st and 2nd districts.

West Virginia didn’t gain or lose any seats through reapportionment. The Mountain State’s population grew 2.5 percent between 2000 and 2010, according to census data.

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