"Those senators down there that understand that area the best will come up with a proposal that I'm confident will do what's best, given the numbers,'' Unger said. "I also believe the people will help balance them, and check them. They're going to be pressured by their own constituents to do the right thing.''
The 2010 Census is prompting changes to the state's legislative and congressional districts. Only five of the Senate's 17 current districts contain populations within 5 percent of the ideal size of 109,000 residents. As for the U.S. House districts, the 1st is within 1 percent of the ideal size of 617,665 people while the 2nd has 30,521 residents too many and the 3rd District has nearly 29,000 too few.
Unger said the task force's meetings have helped inform southern residents who initially challenged the census results as flawed.
"What I've said is, we have to deal with what we're given,'' Unger said. "We can't as a state arbitrarily say that the numbers are wrong...That will end us up in court, and we'll lose.''
The House recently launched a 30-member redistricting committee, which held its first meeting earlier this month. Unger said the Senate task force has since heard fewer comments regarding whether all 100 House seats should be within its own district. While 36 delegates now represent single-seat districts, 22 are in two-seat districts and the rest are in districts with more. The largest is the seven-seat 30th District, representing parts of Kanawha County including much of Charleston.
"I encourage them to talk to the House members because there are the ones who will be dealing directly with that, not us,'' Unger said.
While half the Senate serves on the task force, Unger said any member can propose a redistricting map. As chairman, Unger said he does not intend to draft his own.
Considering the statewide series of meetings a success, Unger said the public can continue to comment. Both the Senate and House panels have devoted web pages on the Legislature's website to provide redistricting resources and allow for feedback. Unger said that like the regional hearings, the task force's drafting meeting will be public as well any plans presented at them.
"I want to set the bar pretty high so 10 years from now, people will look back and try to set the bar even higher in terms of transparency,'' Unger said.