The Mingo County Commission sat in emergency session Wednesday to complete final details to the county voting map. Few actual changes effecting voters on the local level will be noticeable; however, the changes will be seen more at the state and federal office levels.
Mingo County Clerk Yogi Croaft and Deputy Clerk Angie Browning told the commissioners the changes were mandated by the state in response to the 2020 Census which saw a sharp decline in both Mingo County’s and West Virginia’s population. As a result, the state now only has three seats in the U.S. House of Representatives.
“This matter is completely out of our hands,” Croaft said. “We have worked with it the best we can. All of the changes have been done in compliance with data received from the Census.”
The new map presented to the Mingo County Commission, now contains only five of the previous seven magisterial districts: Kermit-Harvey, Lee, Magnolia, Stafford and Williamson. The Beech/Ben/Mate and Tug-Hardee districts have been dissolved according to state guidelines that set the number of districts allotted per county based on population. The Beech and Mate portions of the former district will now be part of the Magnolia District and the Ben section will be absorbed into the Stafford District. The Tug-Hardee District will be divided between the Kermit-Harvey and Lee districts.
During the next election, Browning said that while voters may be assigned to new districts because of the merger, the location of polling places will not change. However, the Nolan precinct will be eliminated.
“The Nolan precinct will be closed and merged into the Chattaroy precinct,” Browning said. “The lower Census number played a factor in this change but the biggest problem we had was that we do not have a physical location for that precinct. The previous location is now unavailable and we cannot find another location to move it to. It is becoming harder and harder to find polling places nowadays.”
With the upcoming changes, the county will not have split senatorial districts as was previously. All of Mingo County, along with several other counties, will be the new Sixth Senatorial District, Browning said. Mingo County will still have split House of Delegates districts; however, the new population numbers change how the county will be divided.
“The dividing line will begin around Parsley Bottom near Lenore and run across the county roughly following Spruce Creek,” Croaft said.
Browning explained that this means basically everyone living in the Lee District and the other districts north of that delineation will be part of the 29th House of Delegates District. This will place a very small section of northern Mingo County into a district containing all of Wayne County. Those living in the Williamson District and extending to the southern border of the county will compose the 34th District.
The motion to dissolve the two magisterial districts and change the boundaries of the delegate districts was made by Commissioner Diann Hannah who prefaced her motion with the phrase: “Due to circumstances beyond our control … .” The changes passed with a vote of 3-0.
Croaft and Browning told the three commissioners, who were unhappy with the new mapping, that the changes had to be made and were based on overall Census population numbers per district and not based on the number of voters.
“We have to design our districts so that each of them have roughly same number of people in each of them with no more than a 5 percent difference,” Browning said.
She said the new redistricted maps were not designed by any local office or official.
“The maps were created by a professional mapping company that has done the mapping for all 55 counties in West Virginia,” Browning said. “No one on the local level made the changes and cannot be held responsible for the new mapping.”