The latest figures compiled by the Secretary of State’s Office show the precipitous decline of registered Democrats in the West Virginia continues.
The data show that the percentage of Democrats among all registered voters has fallen to its lowest level in decades, just 39.84 percent.
The downward trend has been steady. In 1994 two out of every three voters in the state were Democrats (65 percent). Since then, the numbers have continually declined—58 percent in 2004, 52 percent in 2012, 45 percent in 2016, and now less than 40 percent.
Twenty years ago, 659,000 West Virginians were registered as Democrats. Today that number is down to 488,000. That’s a decline of 26 percent.
The drop has occurred for several reasons:
As the national Democratic Party moved farther to the left, it lost moderate blue collar West Virginians who were uncomfortable with the party’s position on issues such as climate change and immigration.
More voters are registering “no party.” Both parties have opened their primaries to independent voters, and they can choose whether to vote in the Democrat or Republican Primary Election.
The Republican Party has outperformed the Democratic Party in West Virginia in recruiting candidates. Not long ago, the General Election ballot frequently had empty spaces where there should have been Republican candidates, especially in Southern West Virginia, but not anymore.
And finally, the state’s County Clerks, with guidance from Secretary of State Mac Warner’s Office, have conducted what was often long overdue updating of the voter registration rolls. The clerks, using a variety of data sources, have removed over 185,000 inactive voters since 2016.
The biggest chunk of those—nearly 93,000—were Democrats, which stands to reason since there are more Democrats in West Virginia than Republicans.
Over 51,000 of the cancelations were Republicans. However, the GOP more than made up the difference with 65,000 new registrations, while the Democratic Party gained only 9,600 new members for a net loss of over 83,000 registrations.
There are still more Democrats than Republicans in West Virginia, but the numbers are getting closer, and Independents are making up an increasingly large portion of the electorate.
More on that in tomorrow’s commentary.