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Delegate encourages Shepherdstown residents to question redistricting changes

By Tabitha Johnston - Chronicle Staff | Oct 8, 2021


SHEPHERDSTOWN — With the completion of the 2020 United States census, West Virginia’s governing bodies has once again had to begin the task of redefining state legislative and congressional districts. And, unfortunately for some municipalities, like Shepherdstown, the results of the redistricting may result in far from fair representation in state government.

According to Shepherdstown’s current delegate in the House of Representatives, the plans presented on Thursday for the House Redistricting Committee to consider approving this Sunday would leave those in the 25443 zip code divided between two delegates. Based on his decades of experience as a delegate, John Doyle (D-67th District) said this division will decrease the amount of sway Shepherdstown will have in the minds of its delegates.

“A community has more clout with the state legislature if it is together in a single delegate district than if it is divided among other delegate districts,” Doyle said. “I know this from a few years ago, when I represented a part of Ranson and Dave Manuel represented part of Ranson. Each of us said ‘We’re going to help Ranson as much as we can,’ but if a third of my district asks for my attention, it’s different than if it’s half of my district. There are just more people elsewhere that are clamoring for my attention. A community really does have more clout if it’s consolidated.

“For the next 10 years, Shepherdstown will be divided into two House of Delegates districts, according to a proposed plan released late last week by the House Redistricting Committee,” Doyle wrote in a press release. “Willowdale, the Corporation of Shepherdstown, Fairmont/Prospect, Little Run Acres, Morgan’s Grove and Glenn Meadows will be part of a district that encompasses Bakerton, Harpers Ferry/Bolivar and the entire Blue Ridge Mountain area of Jefferson County, including Shannondale. Other areas, including Cress Creek, Fernbank, Chapline’s Choice, Heatherfield, Mecklenburg Heights, Ledge Lowe and part of Colonial Hills, will be part of a different delegate district, two-thirds of which will be in Berkeley County.

“If this plan holds, which I think it will, I will not be able to run for re-election with any realistic chance of being successful. I’m not mad about that, as I accept partisan redistricting as part of political life. It shouldn’t be, but that’s a question for another day,” Doyle wrote. “What does have me steamed, however, is what was done to the Shepherdstown community in the process of drawing these districts.

“Keep communities together — that makes sense!” Doyle said in an interview Tuesday night. “I know most people would say, ‘Well, we kept the Corporate limits together.’ But over here where we’ve grown so much, you’ve got a town, Shepherdstown, where the boundaries haven’t been expanded since the American Revolution other than one minor one, I believe.”

“The Republican supermajority in the House of Delegates could quite easily draw a district that would include the Corporation of Shepherdstown and the immediately surrounding unincorporated area, and that would also make it just as difficult for me to be re-elected,” Doyle said, indicating his concern the redistricting decisions regarding Shepherdstown may have had something to do with the House majority party’s desire to have Democrat incumbents lose their seats. “I hope [this redistricting decision] will be considered by the full Legislature when we go into session this coming Sunday. I’m hoping to persuade them they can get rid of me and still be fair to Shepherdstown.”

While the House Proposed Map has already been made, the vote on whether it will be approved will ultimately be up to the amount of public disagreement is shared with Speaker of the House Roger Hanshaw, Doyle said.

“I have been constantly on phone and on the computer, talking with people in town who are mad about this,” Doyle said, mentioning his concern over the wellbeing of Shepherdstown has led to him recently speaking about it on WRNR and with other media outlets. “Please spread the word about this, and tell everybody to email or call the Speaker of the House of Delegates, asking him to help save Shepherdstown.”

Hanshaw can be contacted by calling 304-340-3210 or emailing roger.hanshaw@wvhouse.gov.