Berkeley County Council to hold public hearing on proposed political redistricting plan

November 11, 2011|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD |

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — The Berkeley County Council will hold a public hearing Dec. 1 to hear feedback from residents on the county's proposed political redistricting plan.

Geography-based information technology software was used to redraw voting precinct and magisterial district lines, using major roads, waterways and even railroad lines to reconfigure the boundaries where possible, officials said Thursday.

Berkeley County Clerk John W. Small Jr., who was assisted by IT Director Gary Wine, told council members that his office elected to keep 66 voting precincts.

In accordance with state law, voting precincts are divided based on  the number of county registered voters, which currently exceeds 63,000, officials said.

Small said the county's proposed precincts now range in size between more than 300 registered voters and about 1,600, but noted that he expects those numbers to be reduced after an upcoming verification process is completed.

The county's six magisterial districts, which are used to determine who is eligible to seek election to the council, were redrawn based on the county's total population, which exceeded 104,000, according to the 2010 census.

Only one council member can be elected from a particular magisterial district. The five-member council decided earlier this year to continue to divide the county into six districts, but could have increased that number to as many as 10, under state law.

Increasing the number of magisterial districts would have effectively allowed more people to be eligible to run for council in any given election year, supporters of the change had said.

The biggest change in the proposed magisterial district map was the placement of the city of Martinsburg within a single magisterial district, Wine said.

The change is expected to eliminate confusion for voters there, officials said.

The county assisted the city with redrawing its five wards, which are used in Martinsburg City Council elections for five of the seven council seats. The other two council members are elected citywide as is the mayor.

The city's redistricting committee is holding a public meeting at 5:30 p.m. on Nov. 16 on its proposed redistricting map. The map can be viewed on the city's website at

County officials must have their proposed map posted for 30 days before it can be approved, officials said.

The county's proposed map is expected to be published on the county's website — — but had not been posted as of Friday.

Wine said Small's office still is trying to find polling locations in the fast-growing area of northern Berkeley County.

"We spent many hours, drawing and moving and saying, 'OK, how far would it be from here to there,' and I can honestly tell you it was their concern to make this as easy on the voters as possible," Wine said.

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