West Virginia Redistricting Cases:  the 1990s

Damron v. Hechler, No. __________ (S.D. W.Va., complaint filed Mar. 13, 1991) (challenge to congressional plan)

Stone v. Hechler782 F. Supp. 1116 (W.D. W.Va. 1992)

Plaintiff registered voters challenged the congressional redistricting plan enacted by the Legislature on the grounds that it neither provided for districts of equal population nor adequately justified the population deviation among the districts.  The difference in population between the largest and the smallest of the three districts (the "overall range") was 556 persons, or .09 percent.  Seventeen other plans considered by the Legislature had a lower overall range than the plan enacted.  The State justified these population deviations on the grounds that they were necessary to preserve the cores of prior districts and to make the districts compact.

A three-judge federal district court held that, although the plan deviated from the standard of population equality established by  the U.S. Supreme Court in Karcher v. Daggett, 462 U.S. 725 (1983), the State had shown that the deviations were necessary to achieve legitimate state goals.  It found that the enacted plan preserved the cores of prior districts better than any of the plans with lower population variances.   It found that the enacted plan was more compact than plaintiffs' preferred plan using two of the three measures of compactness considered by the Legislature and by the parties, and that it was compact within the meaning of the state constitutional requirement that districts be "formed of contiguous counties, and be compact."  The complaint was dismissed.

Anthony v. Hechler, No. 92-0021-W(S) (N.D. W.Va., complaint filed Jan. 21, 1992) (challenge to House districts in Ohio County for alleged unequal populations, excessive division of county, and partisan gerrymander)

Holloway v. Hechler817 F. Supp. 617 (S.D. W.Va. 1992), aff'd 507 U.S. 956 (1993) (mem.)

Plaintiff registered voters challenged the redistricting plans for the state Senate and House of Delegates under the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.  They alleged that the House plan violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment because it had an overall range of population deviations between the largest and the smallest districts of 9.97 percent.   They alleged that two of the multimember districts in the House plan denied them equal protection because they included a proviso that no more than three-fourths of the delegates elected from one district and four-fifths of the delegates elected from the other district be residents of the same county.  And they alleged that the Democratic leadership in the Legislature had used a combination of 23 multimember districts and 33 single-member districts to create a partisan gerrymander that unfairly diluted the voting strength of Republican voters.  The basis for the challenge to the Senate plan is not set forth in the reported decision, it having been dismissed by an earlier unpublished order of the Court.

A three-judge federal district court held that the House plan's overall range of  9.97 percent was not  prima facie a denial of equal protection and that multimember districts are not unconstitutional per se.  The Court held that the so-called "proviso" districts were merely a kind of residency requirement and did not violate the Equal Protection Clause.  Since voters in all counties in the district had an equal right to vote for all the candidates from any county, their votes were not unequal.

With regard to the partisan gerrymandering claim, the Court observed that the districts were "compact in shape and . . . present no grotesquery in their configurations."  The Court found that the districts had been drawn to enhance the reelection prospects of incumbents and to minimize contests between incumbents, but held that "recognition of incumbency concerns is not unconstitutional per se."  The Court found that plaintiffs had failed to prove either "intentional discrimination against an identifiable political group . . . [or] an actual discriminatory effect on that group."

Martin v. Jones, No. 20868 (W.Va. 1992)

Stone v. Burdette

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Theresa Bowe 

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M.E. "Mike" Mowery 
General Counsel 
House Judiciary Committee 
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