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Despite losing a U.S. House seat, West Virginia can still wield congressional power

27-Apr-2021 10:25 AM EDT, by West Virginia University

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Although West Virginia will lose one of three congressional seats - based on a decline of nearly 65,000 residents in new U.S. Census Bureau data - the overall damage may be minimal, according to a West Virginia University political scientist.

John Kilwein believes that Sen. Joe Manchin’s current prominence in the U.S. Senate shows that individual members of Congress can be as, or more, influential than the number of seats a state holds on Capitol Hill.



How will the loss of a congressional seat affect West Virginia overall?

“The loss of this seat is part of a continuing trend of the state losing population and the political fallout from that decline. From a high of six U.S. House seats, West Virginia will now have two and its votes in the electoral college will drop to four.

“Still, the drop is small, relatively speaking, and the state’s hard political shift to a dark shade of red since the election of President Obama means that the loss of one House seat will have a negligible impact on West Virginia’s small role in presidential elections.  And as the prominence Sen. Manchin is currently experiencing in the U.S. Senate shows, the state’s power in Congress will be more dependent on the powers and circumstances of its individual elected officials rather than the number of seats it has in the House.”

What would the new/remaining congressional districts look like?

“This is the truly interesting question that the state faces with the loss of this seat. The Republicans have a super majority in the Legislature and the Governor’s Mansion, so they will completely control this redistricting, which sets up an interesting battle within the party to determine which of the three incumbent U.S. representatives is favored as the lines are drawn.

“Also, worth watching is how the party leaders draw the boundaries geographically. My guess, with absolutely no tangible evidence to support it, is that the current 2nd District will be divided at the boundary between Lewis and Braxton counties, with the eastern half becoming part of the 1st District and the western half moving south to the current 3rd District. Although, my guess is that the only part of the state that saw significant growth was in the Eastern Panhandle, especially Morgan, Berkeley and Jefferson counties, so the eastern part of the 2nd moving to the 1st might be smaller (the line between Hardy and Pendleton counties).” – John Kilwein, Chair and Associate Professor of Political Science, Eberly College of Arts and Sciences 

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