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Stories about West Virginia

West Virginia enacts new congressional districts

West Virginia enacted new congressional districts on Oct. 22, 2021, when Gov. Jim Justice (R) signed a proposal approved by the House of Delegates and Senate into law. This map will take effect for West Virginia’s 2022 congressional elections.

On Sept. 30, 2021, the House and Senate Redistricting Committees released 18 congressional district map proposals. On Oct. 13, the West Virginia Senate passed a map proposed by Sen. Charles S. Trump IV in a 30-2 vote, which the House then approved on Oct. 14 in an 84-12 vote.

“This bill puts the state into two districts, which are compact and have low drive times,” said Del. Gary Howell (R). State Sen. Trump said, “Compactness is quite a challenge when you’re trying to draw any kind of district. The two West Virginia panhandles render the state uncompact. I believe this bill meets the constitutional requirements of both the United States constitution and the West Virginia constitution. I think it’s a good map.”

As of Oct. 25, five states have adopted new congressional maps, one state’s congressional map is awaiting approval by the state supreme court, six states were apportioned one congressional district (so no congressional redistricting is required), and 38 states have not yet adopted new congressional maps.

Congressional redistricting has been completed for 28 of the 435 seats (6.4%) in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Redistricting timeline update: West Virginia calls special session, Wyoming committee agrees on timeline

Here’s a summary of recent redistricting updates from West Virginia and Wyoming.

West Virginia: On Oct. 7, 2021, West Virginia Governor Jim Justice (R) called for a special session starting Oct. 11 for the legislature to finish the redistricting process and approve legislative and congressional district maps. “This is on all the redistricting we have to do. We’ve got to do this and everything. The special session is part of the Legislature’s constitutional duty to redistrict the state of West Virginia,” Justice said.

Wyoming: At an Oct. 6, 2021, meeting, the Wyoming Legislature’s Joint Corporations, Election and Political Subdivisions committee agreed on a schedule to finish the redistricting process. The committee set Nov. 1, 2021, as the deadline for map proposals. Redistricting legislation proposals must be finished by Dec. 1, 2021, so they can be reviewed before the 2022 budget session begins on Feb. 14. The committee plans to meet again in early November to go over any remaining issues with the map drafts, but has not set a date yet.

Michigan, West Virginia end statewide face-covering requirements

Two states ended statewide public mask requirements for vaccinated and unvaccinated people between June 18-24.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) ended most remaining statewide coronavirus restrictions, including the statewide mask mandate, on June 22. Vaccinated and unvaccinated people still have to wear masks on public transportation and at public transportation hubs (like bus stations and airports).

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice (R) ended the statewide mask requirements for unvaccinated individuals on June 20. Vaccinated and unvaccinated people still have to wear masks on public transportation and at public transportation hubs. 

In total, 39 states issued statewide public mask requirements during the pandemic. At the time of writing, 10 states had statewide mask orders. All 10 states have Democratic governors. Nine of the 10 states exempted fully vaccinated people from most requirements.

Of the 29 states that have fully ended statewide public mask requirements, 16 have Republican governors, and 13 have Democratic governors. Twenty-six states ended mask requirements through executive order, two (Kansas and Utah) ended mask requirements through legislative action, and one (Wisconsin) ended its mandate through court order.

The 2020 election gave West Virginia Republican lawmakers the votes needed to place an amendment prohibiting the state judiciary from interfering with impeachments on the 2022 ballot

On April 9, the West Virginia State Legislature voted to refer a constitutional amendment to the 2022 ballot that would say that no state court has jurisdiction to intercede, intervene in, or interfere with impeachment proceedings of the West Virginia House of Delegates or the state Senate. Currently, the state constitution does not state a role for the state judiciary to participate or review impeachment proceedings, apart from the chief justice of the state supreme court presiding over the proceedings.

The amendment was proposed in response to an investigation and impeachment proceedings for multiple West Virginia Supreme Court Justices in 2018. The justices were accused of misusing over $1 million in state funds for courthouse office renovations; misuse of state vehicles; and illegal payments to senior judges. 

In June 2018, the House of Delegates unanimously approved a resolution authorizing the House Judiciary Committee to conduct an impeachment investigation into the justices. On September 21, 2018, Justice Margaret Workman, one of the impeached justices, filed a motion with the state supreme court arguing the impeachment proceedings violated the state constitution’s separation of powers clause. On October 11, five circuit court judges temporarily assigned to the state supreme court blocked Justice Workman’s impeachment trial from proceeding.

The justices ruled the impeachment proceedings violated the state constitution’s separation of powers clause, arguing the state Senate did not have the authority to impeach Workman. The ruling was later applied to Justices Robin Davis and Allen Loughry.

Between July and November 2018, Justices Menis Ketchum, Robin Davis, and Allen Loughry resigned from the supreme court. The Senate censured Justice Beth Walker but did not remove her from office. Workman served on the court until her retirement in December 2020.

In West Virginia, to put a legislatively referred constitutional amendment before voters, a two-thirds (66.67%) supermajority vote is required in both the West Virginia State Senate and the West Virginia House of Delegates, which equates to 23 votes in the state Senate and 67 votes in the state House. 

The state Senate first attempted to place the amendment to limit the state judiciary from intervening in impeachment proceedings on the ballot during the 2020 legislative session. It was defeated along party lines with 20 Republicans favoring the amendment and 13 Democrats opposing it.

In the 2020 general election, Republicans gained the votes they needed to meet the supermajority requirement in both chambers. Republicans gained three seats in the state Senate to increase their majority from 20-14 to 23-11. Republicans also increased their majority in the state House from 58-41 (with one vacancy) to 76-24. The Republican majority increased to 77-23 after Del. Jason Barrett switched his party affiliation from Democrat to Republican in December 2020.

The 2021 amendment was introduced as House Joint Resolution 2 (HJR 2) on February 11, 2021. On March 2, the state House approved the amendment by a vote of 78-21 with one Republican absent. The vote was largely along party lines with two Democrats joining the voting Republicans in support. On April 9, the state Senate approved the amendment along party lines with a vote of 23-11. West Virginia voters will decide the amendment and at least two others at the 2022 general election.

State Delegate Pat McGeehan (R) said, “[The amendment] has everything to do with restoring the separation of powers. We need to restore our own rightful powers as a legislative branch, because since [the 2018 Workman decision] … the legislative branch has essentially been reduced to a social club. The impeachment powers are the last line of defense that we have in the state constitution. We have to pass this and ensure that we take our place again, to be able to enforce this kind of power and the threat of it.”

Julie Archer, the coordinator of West Virginia Citizens for Clean Elections, which opposes the amendment, said, “This constitutional amendment would make it so that no state court could intervene to protect the right to a fair hearing of a public official facing impeachment, no matter how frivolous the charge or constitutionally flawed the process. In the hands of a partisan majority, this new power could be abused to oust political opponents without cause, thereby eroding existing checks and balances between the three branches of government and undercutting public trust in the political process.”

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New apportionment data released – six states gain congressional seats, seven states lose seats

On April 26, 2021, the U.S. Census Bureau released it post-2020 census apportionment counts. Six states—Texas (two seats), Colorado, Florida, Montana, North Carolina, and Oregon—gained seats. Seven states—California, Illinois, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia—each lost a seat.

Of the six states that gained congressional seats, three are Republican trifectas (Texas, Florida, and Montana), meaning Republicans control the governorship and majorities in both state legislative chambers in each. Two (Colorado and Oregon) are Democratic trifectas, and one (North Carolina) is a divided government.

Of the seven states that lost congressional seats, three (California, Illinois, and New York) are Democratic trifectas, two (Ohio and West Virginia) are Republican trifectas, and two (Michigan and Pennsylvania) are divided governments.

What is apportionment, and how does it work? Every ten years, the nation conducts the census, a complete count of the U.S. population. The data gleaned from the census determines congressional apportionment. Apportionment is the process by which the 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives are allotted to the states on the basis of population, as required under Article I, Section 2, of the U.S. Constitution. A state can gain seats in the House if its population grows – or lose seats if its population decreases – relative to populations in other states.

After the first census (1790), the 105 members of U.S. House represented about 34,000 residents each. Now, the 435 members of the House will represent an average of 761,169 residents each.

The 2020 census: According to the 2020 census, the resident population of the United States, as of April 1, 2020, was 331,449,281, representing a 7.4 percent increase over the 2010 population. California remained the most populous state with 39,538,223 residents. The population of Texas, the only state to gain multiple congressional seats from apportionment, grew by nearly 4 million residents between 2010 and 2020, reaching 29,145,505. Utah was the fastest-growing state: its population increased by 18.4 percent between 2010 and 2020, reaching 3,271,616.

The census is a complex undertaking. First, the Census Bureau collects data. This involves making a list of every residence (including houses, apartments, dorms, etc.) in the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the five U.S. territories; asking members of each household in the country to complete the census survey; and following up with those households that did not submit surveys. The Census Bureau then must process the data. This involves making a final list of residential addresses, cross-checking for duplicate responses, and processing write-in responses. The Census Bureau also uses imputation, a statistical method applied “in rare instances” that enables the Census Bureau “to fill in missing information using what we already know about an address and its nearest, similar neighbor.” Typically, upon final processing of the data, the Census Bureau delivers state population and apportionment counts by December 31 in the year of the census. Detailed redistricting data follows by April 1 of the next year.

On November 19, 2020, Census Bureau Director Steve Dillingham announced that, “during post-collection processing, certain processing anomalies [had] been discovered.” Dillingham said that he had directed the bureau “to utilize all resources available to resolve this as expeditiously as possible.” On January 27, 2021, Kathleen Styles, a Census Bureau official, announced that the final apportionment report would be delivered by April 30, 2021.

What comes next: The Census Bureau has not yet delivered redistricting data to the states. Upon announcing the 2020 apportionment counts, Acting Census Bureau Director Ron Jarmin said, “Our work doesn’t stop here. Now that the apportionment counts are delivered, we will begin the additional activities needed to create and deliver the redistricting data that were previously delayed due to COVID-19.” The Census Bureau expects to deliver the raw data to the states by August 16. The “full redistricting data with toolkits for ease of us” will be delivered by September 30.

Additional Reading:

West Virginia State Legislature refers three constitutional amendments to 2022 ballot during its 2021 session

The West Virginia State Legislature referred three constitutional amendments to the November 2022 ballot on April 9 and 10, the last days of the legislative session. 

  1. West Virginia No Court Authority over Impeachment Amendment
  2. West Virginia Incorporation of Religious Denominations and Churches Amendment
  3. West Virginia Tax Exemptions for Personal Property Used for Business Activity Amendment

To put a legislatively referred constitutional amendment before voters, a two-thirds (66.67 percent) supermajority vote is required in both the West Virginia State Senate (23 votes) and the West Virginia House of Delegates (67 votes). November 2020 elections gave Republicans two-thirds majorities in both chambers when previously at least some support from Democrats to refer amendments to the ballot.

One amendment would say that no state court has authority over impeachment proceedings by the state legislature and that no court can review any impeachment judgments made by the state senate. The amendment was introduced as House Joint Resolution 2 on February 11, 2021, and passed largely along party lines in each chamber. The state House approved the amendment by a vote of 78-21 on March 2, 2021. In the House, 76 Republicans and two Democrats voted in favor of it, and 21 Democrats voted against it. On April 9, 2021, the state Senate approved the amendment by a vote of 23-11. All 23 Republicans voted in favor of it, and all 11 Democrats voted against it.

The amendment was proposed in response to an investigation and impeachment proceedings for multiple West Virginia Supreme Court Justices in 2018. Investigation and impeachment proceedings stemmed from the justices’ alleged misuse of over $1 million in state funds, specifically relating to courthouse office renovations; misuse of state vehicles; and illegal payments to senior judges. On October 2, 2018, the Senate censured Justice Beth Walker but did not remove her from office. In October 2018, temporary supreme court justices blocked the Senate from conducting an impeachment trial for Justices Margaret Workman, Robin Davis, and Allen Loughry. A similar amendment was proposed in 2020 but did not receive the necessary two-thirds vote in the House.

Another amendment would authorize the state legislature to pass laws to incorporate churches and religious denominations. The measure was introduced as Senate Joint Resolution 4 (SJR 4) on February 10, 2021. The state Senate approved SJR 4 with a vote of 32-0 with two absent on March 2, 2021. On April 7, 2021, the state House adopted the bill with amendments and sent it back to the state Senate. On April 10, the state Senate did not adopt the amendments and sent the bill back to the state House where it was approved in its original form in a vote of 94-4 with one absent. Four Democratic legislators voted against it.

The third amendment would authorize the state legislature to exempt personal property (machinery, equipment, and inventory) used for business activity from ad valorem property taxes. The amendment was introduced as House Joint Resolution 3 (HJR 3) on February 11, 2021. The state House approved an amended version of HJR 3 with a vote of 84-16 on March 31, 2021. Fifteen Democratic representatives and one Republican voted against it. On April 10, 2021, the state Senate approved the measure with a vote of 29-5. Four Democratic senators and one Republican voted against it.

The West Virginia State Legislature convened on February 10, 2021, and adjourned on April 10, 2021. Republicans held a 23-11 majority in the Senate and a 76-24 majority in the House, which means Republicans had the two-thirds majority required to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot in both chambers. Before the November 2020 elections, Republicans held 20 seats in the Senate and 58 seats in the House, which means they needed at least three votes from Democrats in the Senate and nine votes from Democrats in the House to refer constitutional amendments to the ballot.

The party also controlled the governorship, creating a Republican state government trifecta.

From 1996 through 2020, 73.3% (11 of 15) of statewide ballot measures in West Virginia were approved, and 26.7% (4 of 15) were defeated.

So far, 21 statewide ballot measures have been certified for the 2022 ballot in 12 states.

At the end of the West Virginia session, there were five constitutional amendments that had passed one chamber. Bills are carried over to the 2022 legislative session as long as the sponsor/sponsors remain in office during the next session, and the measure has not been rejected, tabled, or postponed indefinitely. The five outstanding amendments relate to education, term limits, firearms, and veterans.

The state legislature is set to convene on January 12, 2022, and adjourn on March 12, 2022.

Additional Reading:

West Virginia enacts law creating intermediate appellate court

Governor Jim Justice (R) signed SB 275 into law on April 9 which provides guidelines for creating the West Virginia Intermediate Court of Appeals, effective June 30, 2021. Previously, West Virginia’s state courts included a state supreme court of appeals and trial courts with both general and limited jurisdiction.

According to Metro News, a 2009 judicial reform panel recommended the creation of an intermediate court. West Virginia is one of nine states without an intermediate appellate court, and the supreme court of appeals serves as the only appellate court.

As outlined in SB 275, the court will consist of three judges elected to 10-year terms. The first three judges will be appointed, with the first judicial election being held in 2024. These elections will be nonpartisan.

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WV court rules in favor of governor’s legislative appointment

On Feb. 9, the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia ruled in favor of Gov. Jim Justice’s (R) appointment to the West Virginia House of Delegates District 19. 

On Jan. 22, the Wayne County Republican Executive Committee nominated Joshua Booth and two others to replace Rep. Derrick Evans (R), who resigned after being charged with entering a restricted public building and violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds. Gov. Justice approved the nomination and formally appointed Booth on Jan. 27.

According to West Virginia law, the executive committee of the political party that holds the seat can submit a list of three candidates to the governor in case of a vacancy. On Jan. 13, the Wayne County Republican Executive Committee sent three names to Gov. Justice: Mark Ross, Chad Shaffer, and Jay Marcum.

Justice’s chief of staff, Brian Abraham, told the committee Justice wanted a new list of names because Acting Chairman of the West Virginia Republican Executive Committee Roman Stauffer was not involved in the original nomination process. The second nomination list included Mark Ross, Chad Shaffer, and Joshua Booth. According to the Charleston Gazette-Mail, after Justice formally appointed Booth on Jan. 27, the Wayne County Republican Executive Committee petitioned the state’s court of last resort “to force the governor to choose from the first list of candidates submitted, saying state law doesn’t give the governor discretion to reject the list provided by local party executive committees.” On Feb. 9, the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia heard the case and ruled in favor of Gov. Justice. Booth was sworn in the following day.

As of Feb. 11, there have been 23 state legislative vacancies in 18 states this year. Eight of those vacancies have been filled, with 15 vacancies remaining. Booth is one of three Republicans to fill vacancies from 2021. 

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New Mexico, West Virginia allow schools to reopen after holiday closures

Starting Jan. 19, all public and private pre-K, elementary, and middle schools in West Virginia were required to resume full-time in-person or hybrid (at least two in-person days every week) instruction, regardless of their county’s coronavirus transmission rates. High schools were still required to close if located in counties the Department of Health and Human Resources classified as red in the County Alert System map.

Schools in areas of New Mexico with lower coronavirus transmission rates were permitted to begin reopening for in-person or hybrid instruction on Jan. 18.  

New Mexico and West Virginia had ordered schools closed for in-person instruction since the beginning of January to mitigate holiday virus spread. 

The nationwide status of school closures and reopenings is as follows:

• Washington, D.C., had a district-ordered school closure.

• Six states (Calif., Del., Hawaii, N.C., N.M., W.Va.) had state-ordered regional school closures, required closures for certain grade levels, or allowed hybrid instruction only.

• Four states (Ark., Fla, Iowa, Texas) had state-ordered in-person instruction.

• Forty states left decisions to schools or districts.

Three state legislators switch parties in December

Ballotpedia has identified three state legislators who switched their party affiliation in December. One switched from Democrat to independent, one from Republican to Libertarian, and one from Democrat to Republican. 

• On Dec. 7, Georgia Rep. Valencia Stovall announced that she was leaving the Democratic Party to join the Independent party. In a Facebook post, Stovall cited misleading, disruptive behavior from both parties during the Nov. 3, 2020 election as her reasons for switching.

• On Dec. 11, West Virginia Rep. Jason Barrett announced that he was leaving the Democratic Party to join the Republican Party. After changing his party affiliation at the West Virginia Secretary of State’s office, Barrett said, “For me to be able to be the most effective legislator I can be and really move good policy forward in West Virginia, I think that joining the Republican Party in West Virginia is a way to do that.”

• On Dec. 14, Maine Rep. John Andrews announced that he was leaving the Republican Party and joining the Libertarian Party of Maine. In a Facebook post on Dec. 12, Andrews cited House minority leader Kathleen Jackson Dillingham as his reason for leaving the party, saying, “My leaving the Republican party is a direct reflection of Kathleen Dillingham’s lack of leadership and vindictive nature. The House GOP is in severe lack of leadership.”

Ballotpedia also identified two state legislators—David Tomassoni and Thomas Bakk—who switched their partisan affiliation In November. Both are Minnesota state senators who left the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party to form an independent caucus. Both senators cited extreme partisanship at the national and state level and a desire to work across the aisle.

Since 1994, Ballotpedia has identified 131 legislators—37 state senators and 94 state representatives—who switched parties. Seventy-two switched from Democrat to Republican, 19 switched from Republican to Democrat, and the remainder switched to or from independent or other parties.

The map below shows the number of party switches by state. The most party switches took place in Mississippi, which had 15 state legislators switch parties since 1994. Thirteen Democrats switched to the Republican party, and two Democrats became independents.

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