PARKERSBURG - A Wheeling businessman and unsuccessful candidate for the House of Delegates is pushing for single-representative districts in West Virginia.
With multi-representative districts, voters are less connected to their representatives, voters can be disenfranchised voters and incumbents have the advantage, said Dolph Santorine. Most other states don't have multiple-representative districts.
"What do 47 other states know that we don't?" he said.
Possible redistricting of W.Va. delegate districts.
Santorine is the founder of West Virginians for Fair and Impartial Representation.
Twenty-two of the 58 districts in the House of Delegates have more than one representative, including the 10th District in Wood County with three delegates. The 8th and 9th Districts in Wood and Wirt counties have one.
Five districts have four or more representatives while the 30th District in Kanawha County has seven.
And most are from the same zip code, said Steve Cohen, who is working with Santorine. No representatives live in the eastern side of the county.
"St. Albans has 25,000 people and they don't have anybody in the Legislature," Cohen said.
Mason County, where the new U.S. 35 is planned, is represented by four delegates who live in Putnam County, Santorine said.
Advantages outweigh disadvantages, he said.
Incumbents have the upper hand in multiple-representative districts, Santorine said. They manipulate the system by encouraging voters to vote only for them, called the single shot, and not, for example, to vote for three candidates if there are three seats on the ballot, said Santorine, who ran for the House of Delegates 3rd District last year.
Smaller single-representative districts will force candidates to meet constituents one-on-one, like going door-to-door, and make them more responsive to voters rather than relying on spending to get their message to the voter, he said.
Constituents also identify more with a single representative, Santorine said.
The state will redraw district boundaries when the finalized 2010 census numbers are available from the U.S. Census.
The state won't lose seats in Congress, but the Eastern Panhandle has been gaining population when other areas have lost. A concern of Republicans is the Democrats in the a Legislature could draw the lines at the detriment of Reps. David McKinley and Shelley Moore Capito, both Republicans, and in other state Senate and Delegate districts.
Redistricting is the opportune time to change to single-representative districts, Santorine said. The cost would be the same to have multiple-representative districts, he said.