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W.Va. voters face possible changes

November 23, 2001|By RICHARD F. BELISLE, Waynesboro

W.Va. voters face possible changes



Jefferson County residents have until Dec. 20 to speak out on a proposed magisterial redistricting plan that could affect where they vote.

State law mandates that counties realign their magisterial districts to equalize populations following every 10-year census. The redistricting would affect voting for the county's five commissioners, each of whom represents one of the five magisterial districts, County Clerk John Ott said.

Commissioner Al Hooper represents the Charles Town district, A. Hockensmith represents the Harpers Ferry district, James Ruland represents Kabletown, Jane Tabb represents Middleway and James Knode represents the Shepherdstown district.

Jefferson County's population grew 17.4 percent between 1990 and 2000. The county had 35,926 residents in 1990 and 42,190 in 2000.

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The state sets a standard for each of the five county magisterial districts at 8,438 residents, said Debra Pittinger, deputy county clerk.

"That's not a statewide standard. It's according to population county by county," Pittinger said.

She said Jefferson County needs to come within 5 percent of the standard set by the state.

The realignment plan under consideration by the County Commissioners would reach that goal by shifting residents to the Charles Town and Middleway districts from the other three districts, Pittinger said.

There are 7,502 residents in the Charles Town district. Under the proposed realignment, the district would end up with 8,546 residents, a gain of 1,044. The plan would shift 661 residents from the Harpers Ferry district and 383 from Kabletown to Charles Town, Pittinger said.

The Middleway district has 7,177 residents. Under the plan it would end up with 8,357, a gain of 1,180. It would be accomplished by shifting 954 from Kabletown and 226 from the Shepherdstown district.

The realignment would reduce the number of residents in the Harpers Ferry district from 8,906 to 8,245, a drop of 661. Kabletown would decrease by 337 residents, from 9,915 to 8,578. The Shepherdstown district would see a decrease of 226 residents, from 8,700 to 8,474, under the proposal.

The redistricting affects all residents, not just registered voters, Pittinger said.

It could also mean changes in the county's voting precincts. The law limits each precinct to 1,500 voters, she said.

"We may have to add some precincts," she said.

Changes would have to be complete in time for the candidate filing period for the 2002 elections which runs Jan. 14-26.

The County Commissioners will accept written and oral comments up to 11 a.m. at their Dec. 20 meeting in the Jefferson County Courthouse.

Written comments can be sent to the Clerk of the County Commission, P.O. Box 208, Charles Town, W.Va. 25414.

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