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Letter to the Editor

Dear Editor;

After the 2020 census the West Virginia House of Delegates is to be carved up into 100 single member districts – under a law passed in 2018.

There are about 38,000 people in the two-member 43rd House District, of which 8,400 live in Pocahontas County, 22% of the total.

You could carve out a single member district that includes all of Pocahontas and western Randolph which would be about 46% Pocahontas County, giving a county resident a real shot at getting elected to the House.

I tried to get the Pocahontas County Commission to lobby for this in 1990, when the preliminary House redistricting plan included such a district, but they sat on their hands while the Elkins folks lobbied like crazy. The result: the continuation of a two-member district, which persists today.

Since the 1972 Supreme Court “one man, one vote” decision, which put an end to each county in West Virginia being guaranteed at least one seat in the legislature, only one person from Pocahontas has been elected to the House of Delegates – for one two-year term. That’s one in 58 years out of a total of 116 elected.  

We can only hope the current Pocahontas County Commission will be more on the ball next year, when the 2021 redistricting takes place – and the new “100 single member districts” law goes into effect. If the Pocahontas residents are split between two Randolph-dominated districts, with about 4,000 Pocahontas people and 13,500 Randolph folks in each, it may well be the 22nd century before Pocahontas has its own person in the House.  

Interesting fact: the only time a Pocahontas resident was elected to the House in the last 50 years was in 1988 – Walt Helmick, who ran against seven Randolph residents in the Democrat primary that year, back when to be the Democrat nominee was a guarantee of success in the fall election. Walt is currently a Pocahontas County Commissioner, after a storied career as a State Senator (1989-2013) and Commissioner of Agriculture (2013-2017). 

It will be interesting to see if Walt and his two fellow commissioners can pull off what no other commission has been able to accomplish in the last half century – return a Pocahontas County resident to the House of Delegates. And having it happen in the county’s 200th birthday year would make it especially sweet.

Gibbs Kinderman

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