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Shepherdstown Area Independent Living discusses redistricting, current political climate

By Staff | Jun 22, 2018

Shepherdstown Area Independent Living learned about the United States Census and how its findings cause redistricting to occur Friday during the group’s monthly Brown Bag Luncheon at Trinity Episcopal Church’s fellowship hall.

Cris Kinsella, a member of Jefferson County’s League of Women Voters and the Civic Education and Participation Roundtable, spoke during the luncheon, discussing how 2020’s census might impact Jefferson County.

“The last U.S. Census was done in 2010. It’s done every 10 years by the U.S. Census Bureau,” Kinsella said. “They take about a year to gather up the data, and then they disseminate the information, and at that point the states use that for their own purposes.”

Kinsella has spoken about other aspects of the democratic process during two previous SAIL luncheons.

“This one is specifically for what you see in the news today, about redistricting and gerrymandering … and the necessity for redistricting. Redistricting is something that is mandated to occur after the census returns are shared,” Kinsella said.

According to Kinsella, the redistricting happens a year after the census. The goal of redistricting is to rebalance electoral districts across the country.

“The legislative balance of power needs to be redistributed to better reflect what the populations and the different needs are throughout the state,” Kinsella said, adding that the federal government uses the census data to determine where to allocate funds.

Kinsella said West Virginia’s biggest concern with the 2020 census is the potential loss of federal representation. West Virginia’s overall declining population could result in it going from three to two members within the House of Representatives.

“The populations and industries have changed within West Virginia – it’s hard to find a job in the southeast and southwest of West Virginia,” Kinsella explained. “Berkeley County’s booming – they just got Procter & Gamble, so the population’s growing. In fact, Berkeley County is the fastest-growing county in West Virginia, at this point. There are other areas in West Virginia that are making a lot of jobs and a lot of money because of the fracking, but I don’t know whether that equates to job growth and population movement.”

Kinsella acknowledged that most SAIL members were already familiar with the census’ significance, but said that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t learn something during the luncheon.

“The people at SAIL know all this stuff pretty much, but sometimes one little tidbit stands out that changes things around, and makes you think completely differently,” Kinsella said. “You should never stop learning. It’s important to learn, so you can understand. When you understand, you can accept reality, or learn to do something about it, if you don’t want to accept it.”

The Jefferson County League of Women Voters is open to all men and women of voting age and offers free membership to youth members. For more information, visit lwv-jcwv.org/.

To learn more about SAIL, visit sail.clubexpress.com/.