Chris Schulz Published

Shift To Single-Member Districts Causes Confusion In Some Precincts

A voter casts a ballot.

On Nov. 8, West Virginians will vote in new districts after the state redistricting in 2021. For some voters, it will be the first time they elect only one delegate to the House.

West Virginia was one of 10 states to still use multi-member districts in the House of Delegates. Monongalia County’s five member, 51st district was the largest in the state.

The passage of House Bill 4002 in 2018 required West Virginia to create single-member districts. During the 2021 redistricting process, the state created 100 single-member districts, doing away with the previous mix of 67 districts.

Carye Blaney is the county clerk for Monongalia County. She says her office saw some confusion about the new districts during the primary election earlier this year.

“The biggest question that the voters had, from seeing the single-member districts was, ‘Where were the rest of the candidates?’” Blaney said. “Having that many candidates and then going to single-member districts was a big change for our voters.”

Blaney says despite the exposure during the primary, her office is still answering questions about the district change in the leadup to the general election, when more voters are likely to participate. She says education efforts have been ongoing.

“We have been trying to increase our voter awareness and our education around these changes to the ballot all summer,” Blaney said. “We’ve been running the sample ballot, of course, on our website and providing all that information.”

Blaney says redistricting, which by law must be completed every 10 years to account for changes in population, is always a challenge. She says that while the shift to single-member districts added to the complexity of the process, voters seem positive about the change.

“I think that voters like the idea that the candidates that they would be voting for on their ballot would be representing their particular area,” Blaney said. “You would tend to think that if you were in a single-member district, that you would recognize the name, and would know the candidate. Their kids would go to school together, they would see them at different community functions.”

Kayla Young is one of four delegates from the old, multi-member 35th district in Kanawha County. She is now the democratic candidate in the new 56th district, and similar to Blaney, acknowledges that the change has caused confusion for voters. But Young says the confusion stems from the state using multi-member districts in the first place.

“There aren’t a lot of multi- member districts,” she said. “It’s kind of been confusing to me that some of them have been multi-member, and some haven’t. I don’t know how it could have gone better, but I do think it is somewhat confusing.”

Despite the confusion, Young says she is excited for the opportunity to serve a single-member district.

“I’m glad that we’re moving to single-member districts,” she said. “I think it’s going to be better representation for people, so I’m looking forward to it.”

Young’s race has her running against another incumbent, Republican and fellow delegate for the 35th district, Andrew Anderson.

Anderson was appointed by Gov. Jim Justice in August after Del. Larry Pack resigned to join Justice’s office as a senior advisor. Anderson did not return our request for an interview in time for this story.

Young says the biggest change for her as a delegate will be the smaller, more manageable number of constituents.

“It’s been interesting for me coming from a multi-member district to a single-member district,” she said. “I’m used to talking to about 85 to 90,000 people and now I need to talk to about 18,000 people.”

The text of House Bill 4002 begins by stating,“Single-member districts best exemplify the principle of one person, one vote”. Voters will put that to the test come Tuesday.