H. B. 3093

(By Mr. Speaker, Mr. Kiss, and Delegates Staton,

Kominar and Trump)

[Passed March 8, 2003; in effect ninety days from passage .]

AN ACT to amend and reenact section five, article one, chapter three of the code of West Virginia, one thousand nine hundred thirty-one, as amended, relating to requiring county commissions to follow geographic physical features recognized by the U.S. Census Bureau when determining precinct boundaries.

Be it enacted by the Legislature of West Virginia:
That section five, article one, chapter three of the code of West Virginia, one thousand nine hundred thirty-one, as amended, be amended and reenacted to read as follows:
§3-1-5. Voting precincts and places established; number of voters in precincts; precinct map; municipal map.

(a) The precinct shall be the basic territorial election unit. The county commission shall divide each magisterial district of the county into election precincts, shall number the precincts, shall determine and establish the boundaries thereof, and shall designate one voting place in each precinct, which place shall be established as nearly as possible at the point most convenient for the voters of the precinct. Each magisterial district shall contain at least one voting precinct and each precinct shall have but one voting place therein.
Each precinct within any urban center shall contain not less than three hundred nor more than one thousand five hundred registered voters. Each precinct in a rural or less thickly settled area shall contain not less than two hundred nor more than seven hundred registered voters, unless upon a written finding by the county commission that establishment of or retention of a precinct of less than two hundred voters would prevent undue hardship to the voters, the secretary of state determines that such precinct be exempt from the two hundred voter minimum limit. If, at any time the number of registered voters exceeds the maximum number specified, the county commission shall rearrange the precincts within the political division so that the new precincts each contain a number of registered voters within the designated limits. If a county commission fails to rearrange the precincts as required, any qualified voter of the county may apply for a writ of mandamus to compel the performance of this duty: Provided, That when in the discretion of the county commission, there is only one place convenient to vote within the precinct and when there are more than seven hundred registered voters within the existing precinct, the county commission may designate two or more precincts with the same geographic boundaries and which have voting places located within the same building. The county commission shall designate alphabetically the voters who will be eligible to vote in each precinct so created. Each such precinct shall be operated separately and independently with separate voting booths, ballot boxes, election commissioners and clerks, and whenever possible, in separate rooms. No two of such precincts may use the same counting board.
(b) In order to facilitate the conduct of local and special elections and the use of election registration records therein, precinct boundaries shall be established to coincide with the boundaries of any municipality of the county and with the wards or other geographical districts of the municipality except in instances where found by the county commission to be wholly impracticable so to do. Governing bodies of all municipalities shall provide accurate and current maps of their boundaries to the clerk of any county commission of a county in which any portion of the municipality is located.
(c) To facilitate the federal and state redistricting process, precinct boundaries must be comprised of intersecting geographic physical features or municipal boundaries recognized by the U.S. Census Bureau. For purposes of this subsection, geographic physical features include streets, roads, streams, creeks, rivers, railroad tracks and mountain ridge lines. The county commission of every county must modify precinct boundaries to follow geographic physical features or municipal boundaries and submit changes to the West Virginia office of legislative services by June 30, 2007 and by the thirtieth day of June, every ten calendar years thereafter. The County Commission must also submit precinct boundary details to the U.S. Census Bureau upon request.
The West Virginia office of legislative services shall be available for consultation with the county commission regarding the precinct modification process: Provided, That nothing in this subsection removes or limits the ultimate responsibility of the county commission to modify precinct boundaries to follow geographic physical features.
(d) The provisions of this section are subject to the provisions of section twenty-eight, article four of this chapter relating to the number of voters in precincts in which voting machines are used.
(e) The county commission shall keep available at all times during business hours in the courthouse at a place convenient for public inspection a map or maps of the county and municipalities with the current boundaries of all precincts.