WHEELING - West Virginia's legislative leaders today will file a motion with the U.S. Supreme Court defending the state's new congressional district lines, according to state Senate President Jeff Kessler.
Kessler, D-Marshall, said counsel representing him and House Speaker Richard Thompson, D-Wayne, will file the motion with Chief Justice John Roberts seeking to block the 2-1 decision of three federal court judges on Jan. 3. The judges ruled West Virginia's new congressional lines were unconstitutional in that they did not provide equal representation in the U.S. House for each of the state's three congressional districts.
Roberts is the justice with jurisdiction over West Virginia, Kessler said.
Kessler had initially expected the motion to be filed Thursday, but he said the lawyers for him and Thompson were still working to "mesh the briefs" that are to be submitted. Time is of concern, as filings for the 2012 election season began this week with the congressional district lines still in question.
Only one candidate, 1st District Democrat candidate Sue Thorn of Wheeling, thus far has filed to run for the U.S. House from West Virginia in 2012. The filing deadline for this year's races is midnight Jan. 28.
Kessler said the filing deadline could be extended - but not by much - if state lawmakers need more time to redraw congressional lines.
Secretary of State Natalie Tennant has informed lawmakers filings must happen by no later than Feb. 3 to accommodate overseas voting procedures in time for the May 8 primary election.
Kessler indicated that moving the date of the primary election is not an option, but he isn't certain how quickly the Supreme Court may move on West Virginia's case.
"There was the case with Texas redistricting, and the court acted on that one in less than a week," Kessler said. "We're hoping we get a ruling in a similar brief period of time."
Arguments in the Texas case took place Monday before the Supreme Court, which has yet to render its ruling.
Meanwhile, West Virginia lawmakers are again looking at the congressional maps and how they could be adjusted, Kessler said. Any changes would have to be passed in the Legislature - by a majority of the 34 members of the Senate and the 100 members of the House. A combined total of 67 lawmakers would have to be in agreement, he noted.
"It's too early to tell" where the lines could be redrawn, Kessler said. "I see some proposed changes - but whether a consensus can be reached, it's too early to tell. It's never easy to get (nearly) 70 of 134 legislators to agree on anything."