But Tuesday's order also expressed hope for a new plan before the primary, citing proposed maps submitted this week by the Jefferson County Commission. The commission filed the pending challenge. With Jefferson part of the 2nd Congressional District, the commission successfully argued that the district wrongly has several thousand more residents than the state's other two, diluting votes there. Stretching across West Virginia from the Ohio River to the Blue Ridge Mountains, the 2nd District also violates the West Virginia Constitution's mandate for compact districts, the challenge alleges.
The Legislature's 60-day regular session begins Wednesday. Several lawmakers expressed interest Tuesday in one of those new proposed plans.
This alternative would move Jefferson County's Eastern Panhandle out of a district shared with Charleston, the state capital and another source of discontentment for the petitioners, and into one with the Northern Panhandle. This district would also contain Morgantown, which along with the Eastern Panhandle saw the most growth in the 2010 census.
The district that includes Charleston, meanwhile, would absorb Wood and others in the Mid-Ohio Valley. The 3rd District would continue to represent the southern coalfields but would also gain nearly all of Randolph County.
Taylor would be the only other county divided between districts. This alternative would keep the U.S. House incumbents -- GOP Reps. David McKinley and Shelley Moore Capito, and Democratic Rep. Nick Rahall -- in separate districts. Lawmakers have balked at proposals that would prompt runoffs among these three.
"I like it a lot," said Senate Judiciary Chairman Corey Palumbo. "I think it's the best map that I have seen among the proposals that have been floating around since the court decision came out."
A Kanawha County Democrat, Palumbo voted for the plan that was struck down. He also opposed alternatives that sought to move or divide his county. Senate Majority Leader John Unger, meanwhile, opposed the plan that passed and supports the pending challenge. He also oversaw his chamber's preparations for the redistricting process last year.
"There seems to be consensus building around this," Unger, D-Berkeley, said Tuesday. "This seems to be a way forward."
Responding to the 2010 census results, the congressional redistricting plan struck down by the federal panel had merely moved one county, Mason, from the 2nd District to the 3rd District.