CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- After recent legislative and congressional redistricting provoked weeks of contentious debate, and six separate legal challenges -- including one still pending before the U.S. Supreme Court -- some legislators believe an independent commission could do a better job of redrawing those districts.
"I think we ought to take a real hard look at it," Senate Majority Leader John Unger, D-Berkeley, said Tuesday of the resolution to study whether to create an independent commission on redistricting (SCR69).
Unger's resolution calls for the Joint Committee on Government and Finance -- the top-ranking interim committee, made up of House and Senate leaders -- to study the possibility of creating an independent commission to take over responsibility for redistricting.
The resolution, which would need to be adopted by the House and Senate before the regular session ends at midnight Saturday, notes that "redistricting is an inherently political process."
"The welfare of the citizens of the state and their local communities of interest must be placed ahead of any political party or individual," the resolution states. "An independent commission is a more equitable body to invest the responsibility of redistricting."
Unger's motion points out that several states have already switched to independent commissions "in an effort to have an open, democratic and transparent process, encourage participation and avoid partisan gerrymandering."
The resolution -- co-sponsored by Sen. Dan Foster, D-Kanawha -- was assigned to the Senate Judiciary Committee, where Chairman Corey Palumbo, D-Kanawha, said it warrants serious consideration.
"This was my first time with redistricting," Palumbo said of last year's special sessions to redraw legislative boundaries. "What you realize very quickly is it's a process driven by self-interest."
"I think we should look at how other states do it," he said of the proposal.