Friday, June 24, 2011

Why Is South Hills Entitled to 7% of the House of Delegates?

South Hills is a neighborhood nestled in the Kanawha Valley. It overlooks the Kanawha River and Downtown Charleston. The movers and shakers of that city live in this upscale area. Interestingly enough, this neighborhood, which is not very large in size, can claim to be represented by 7% of the West Virginia State Legislature.

How is this possible? The southern half of Kanawha County, along with its seven delegates, has been lumped into one delegate district. This district is about half of a 900 square mile county, but all of these delegates live in an affluent enclave, just a few miles from each other. That means that large stretches of the county, such as the areas of Alum Creek, Trace Fork, etc. do not have a delegate living anywhere near them. Even worse, southern Kanawha County has almost nothing in common with their South Hills brethren. They are coal miners, not urbanites. Areas of the county, such as Loudendale, actually have historically strong antipathy towards the South Hills area.

Even worse, Mason County, split by multi-delegate districts, has not had a home grown delegate in two decades.

The big issue here is the very existence of multi-delegate districts. Opponents have raised many arguments for their dissolution, but there are no good reasons to keep them, except for the fact that they benefit incumbency. Delegate Danny Wells in a recent Charleston meeting, when challenged, exclaimed that he did not want to run into his constituency at church or in the grocery store. It is time for West Virginia to have one hundred districts for its one hundred delegates.

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