Forty of the 50 states have only single-member districts in their legislatures' lower houses. Six have only single or dual districts. Maryland has singles and threes. Only West Virginia and New Hampshire have a greater variety than that (Nebraska is unicameral).
I believe that the single-member district is the truest manifestation of the "one person, one vote" concept articulated by the U.S. Supreme Court because it provides the most direct connection between representative and represented. I don't think 40 states are out of step. Let's join them. Multi-member districts are antiquated and backward, relics of the 19th century.
Single-member district delegates know (not just sense) how their constituents think because there is constant interaction. The delegate has the confidence to "go against the grain" should conscience decree, knowing that there will be ample opportunity to explain the reasons in person or small groups to everyone in the district, unfiltered by the media.
It is much more difficult for a moneyed opponent to defeat an incumbent in a single-member district than in a multi-member one because the smaller the district the greater the importance of personal campaigning. Personal contact is the most effective form of campaigning. Well-heeled interest groups cannot distort your record because your constituents already know your record, and you.
I'm a liberal. I'm pro-choice, pro-gay rights, pro-collective bargaining for public employees and anti-right-to-work laws. I support strong environmental laws and sensible gun control. All my constituents know this. Not all approve. But they all understand whyI have these views. That's why I think I've been elected 10 times in a row.
Some Democrats fear that single-member districts will elect more Republicans. Balderdash. Logic dictates that lines drawn fairly will result in the balance of the House being similar to now. I think many Republicans support the concept because it's overwhelmingly popular. I'm for it because I think it's right.
There is some evidence that multi-member districts might elect marginally more females than single-member districts, but the conclusions are far from definitive. Among other sources, I consulted a 2002 article by James D. King of the University of Wyoming in State Politics and Policy Quarterly.
It has been clearly established that multi-member districts discriminate against ethnic minorities more than single-member ones. That's why every state subject to the rules of the federal Voting Rights Act must have only single-member districts.
Some argue for multi-member districts because more urban people are elected. Residing as I do on the outskirts of a town of 1,800 I'm not sure how to take that.
I don't think we can get to all single-member districts this year. Some incumbents live too close to each other to facilitate drawing lines that give each a district with no other incumbent in it. I think it would be wrong to require two people who have each been fairly elected to be forced to try to knock each other off.
We should rather strive to have between 80 and 90 single-member districts, plus six to 10 "deuces." This is doable, and I will offer such a plan for consideration. It is imperative that we make major progress toward an entirely single-member district system so that the journey can be completed in 2021.
The lower house of a legislature is supposed to be the "people's house." The West Virginia House of Delegates will not truly be the "people's house" until all of its members represent single-member districts.
Doyle, of Shepherdstown, is a delegate from Jefferson County's 57th District.