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West Virginia Capitol Building.

The capital and seat of government in West Virginia is the city of Charleston, located in the southwest area of the state.


Legislative Branch

The West Virginia Legislature is bicameral, consisting of the House of Delegates and the Senate. It is a citizen's legislature, meaning that legislative office is not a full-time occupation, but rather a part-time position. Consequently, legislators often hold a full-time job in their community of residence, as opposed to neighboring states like Pennsylvania and Ohio.

The House of Delegates holds 100 members whom are elected every two years. The Senate holds 34 members elected to staggered four-year terms.

Typically, the Legislature is in session for sixty days between January and early April. The final day of the regular session usually includes last-minute legislation in order to meet a constitutionally-imposed deadline of midnight. During the remainder of the year, legislators can convene for 'special' sessions whenever the governor deems one or more issues of state government in need of timely action by the legislature.

Executive Branch

The governor is elected every four years, on the same day as the president, and is sworn in during January. A governor can be elected to two consecutive terms but an interceding election must occur before he/she can be elected to a third term. The current governor, inaugurated in 2005, is Democrat Joe Manchin.

Other elected executive offices include Secretary of State (currently Democrat Natalie Tennant), Attorney General (currently Democrat Darrell McGraw), and Commissioner of Agriculture (currently Democrat Gus R. Douglass). Regular elections are held every four years; however, these offices have no term limits.

Judicial Branch


The Circuit Court

For the purpose of courts of general jurisdiction, the state is divided into 31 judicial circuits. Each circuit is made up of one or more counties. Circuit Judges are elected in partisan elections to serve eight-year terms. Also, beginning in 2008, family law masters will be elected to serve eight-year terms.

The Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia

The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals is the state's highest court and the court of last resort. The Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia is the busiest appellate court of its type in the United States. Only 11 states have a single appellate court; West Virginia is one of those states. The West Virginia Constitution allows for the creation of an intermediate court of appeals, but the Legislature has never acted upon this option.

The Supreme Court of Appeals has five justices. Justices must have practiced law for at least ten years. The five justices are elected in partisan elections to 12-year terms. The current justices are Chief Justice Brent Benjamin, Justice Robin Davis, Justice Margaret Workman, Justice Joseph Albright, and Justice Menis Ketchum.

Political History

From the 1930s through the 1990s, West Virginia's politics were largely dominated by the Democratic party, and Democrats still dominate most local and state offices. West Virginia also has a very strong tradition of union membership. While the state continued their Democratic tradition by supporting Bill Clinton by large margins in 1992 and 1996, a majority of West Virginia voters supported George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004. Bush easily won the state's five electoral votes in 2004 by a margin of 13 percentage points with 56.1% of the vote.

The most consistent support for Democrats is found in the coal fields of Southern West Virginia (especially McDowell, Mingo, Logan, Wyoming, and Boone Counties), while Republicans find greatest success to the east of the Allegheny Mountains, especially in the state's Eastern Panhandle, and in the suburbs near Charleston and Huntington.

Local government

As in Virginia, the county is the unit of government, although an unsuccessful attempt to introduce the township system was made in West Virginia's first constitution. Each of the state's 55 counties have a county commission, consisting of three commissioners elected for six years but with terms so arranged that one retires every two years, is the legislative and fiscal authority. The county commissions were originally called county courts before legal reform stripped the commissions of their judicial powers. Other officers are the Clerk of the County Court, elected for six years. The executive authority in a West Virginia county is the sheriff, who is elected to a four-year term for no more than two consecutive terms. Sheriffs with a law enforcement background generally take a more active role in the policing of his or her county, while those that were not police officers tend to focus on the tax-collecting parts of the office by delegating work to the chief deputy. The prosecuting attorney, one or two assessors, and a surveyor of lands are also elected to four-year terms in partisan elections, although they are not term-limited. In addition, there are boards appointed or elected by various authorities and charged with specific duties. They include the local board of health and the board of jury commissioners. Each of the magisterial districts (of which, as has been said, there must be at least three and not more than ten in each county) elects one or two magistrates and constables, and a board of education of five members. The constitution provides that the legislature, on the request of any county, may establish a special form of county government, and several of the larger and more populous counties have special acts.

See also

External links


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