Democrats in West Virginia legislature may be marginalized in upcoming session

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JEFFERSON COUNTY, W.Va. (WDVM) — With the November election in the books in West Virginia, the state legislature is about to make some impactful decisions for the next decade.

After that general election, there’s a new balance of power in the Mountain State. Well, “balance” doesn’t accurately describe it. The Republican gains were so impressive they now hold a “super-majority” in both the House and Senate.

According to Republican Delegate Larry D. Kump from Berkeley and Morgan counties, “With a “super-majority” the Republicans can pretty well flex their muscle.”

That is probably what former President Barack Obama had in mind when he famously said “elections have consequences.” And that means, with the start of a new decade, Republicans in the state legislature can redraw legislative districts to protect their own and make Democrats vulnerable. an exercise in raw political power. But is there a way to make it “non-partisan?”

“I personally think the only sensible way to do it is to create a commission which does not have to report its findings to the legislature,” said Delegate John Doyle (D- Jefferson County).

“There’s been every year legislation put in to make the district redrawing under a nonpartisan board,” Kump observes. “That will probably be attempted again this legislative session. I doubt that is that goes anywhere. The party in power generally likes to flex their muscle.”

So where does that leave the Democrats next year? Pretty much hoping to find the Republicans asleep at the switch.

Delegate Doyle observes that “the larger a majority gets the more fissures develop in that majority. Our job as Democrats — the minority party — is going to be to looking for openings to weigh in on behalf of the side we think is either better or less bad.”

With the Democrats so marginalized, it may take several election cycles for their party to reassert its power. The new districts must be in place by January 2022 for the elections later that year.

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