CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A state Senate task force expects to spend the coming month drafting and revising possible district maps for that chamber, as well as the state's three U.S. House of Representatives seats, after nearly a dozen public meetings on the matter.
Senate Majority Leader John Unger, the committee's chairman, said the task force aims to have proposals ready for an expected special redistricting legislative session in early August. The panel also has the last of 11 public meetings in the region scheduled for July 21 in Princeton.
Unger said residents of Wayne and Monongalia counties have requested changes that would unify each county. Each is currently divided among three districts, he said.
"I don't know if we can get to one, but we maybe can get to two,'' said Unger, D-Berkeley. The Senate must have 17 two-seat districts.
Unger said the task force also fielded comments for and against moving Mason County from the state's 2nd Congressional District to its 3rd. The 2nd District, represented by Republican Shelley Moore Capito, already stretches from the Ohio River to the Blue Ridge Mountains. Districts should be compact, Unger said, citing federal standards.
But Mason County residents have also questioned whether they have much in common with the 3rd District, represented by Democrat Nick Rahall and dominated by the southern coalfields, Unger added.
"We have to make sure that we balance all of these interests. That's our challenge,'' he said.
Other expected changes include carving Kanawha County into two separate state Senate districts, one of which would include one or more neighboring counties. The state's most populous county and home to the state capital, Kanawha now has two districts that completely overlap.
More generally, the southern coalfield districts will watch their district boundaries grow and overall seats decline, while the Eastern Panhandle will see the reverse, Unger said.