CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Some bad feelings about the upcoming special session on redistricting:
About two weeks out from the anticipated Aug. 1 start of the special session, one would think that if the process were going to take place in the open, House and Senate select committee meetings would be to the stage where they'd be unveiling draft plans for redistricting, i.e., "Here's option A, here's alternative B, etc."
Instead, last week's meeting of the House Select Committee on Redistricting featured a Civics 101 overview of redistricting by Morgan Cullen of the National Conference of State Legislatures, which would have been a dandy way to kick off the redistricting process ... six months ago.
That's not to say that there are not redistricting maps floating around. In fact, at the end of the select committee meeting, Delegates Mark Hunt and Danny Wells, both D-Kanawha, were seen huddling up over a draft map.
(We can be pretty certain they weren't figuring how to best divide Kanawha's 30th District into seven single-member districts...)
While the Senate Select Committee has at least been more open with the process, holding public hearings around the state on redistricting, it didn't meet at all during the July interims, presumably the last opportunity to meet in public before the special session begins in a couple of weeks.
One of my favorite lines from one of my all-time favorite shows, "Six Feet Under," was when Ruth Fisher, confronted by her sons over losing large sums of money gambling at the horse track, commented, "That money's not lost. It's just not mine anymore."
So it will be with the 17th Senatorial District: It won't be gone. It just won't be in Kanawha County anymore.
No matter how much Kanawha residents cry over the pending loss of a state Senate seat, the reality is the county's 2010 census puts the county 25,000 residents short of what it needed to keep both the 8th and 17th Senatorial Districts.
The question is, which direction will the Senate go to create a senatorial district with one senator from Kanawha and one from an adjoining county or counties?
In keeping with the mandate to maintain communities of common interest, the most logical option would be a district made up of western Kanawha County, and the eastern half of Putnam County -- sensible since a lot of residents in Putnam County commute to work in Kanawha County.
However, the plan that currently has momentum in the Senate would create a district combining southern Kanawha County and Boone County.
That option allows the Senate to then redraw districts in population-losing southern West Virginia counties in a way to minimize incidents of forcing current incumbents to have to run against each other.