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Democrat registrations drop below 50 percent; Republican Party leaders laud numbers

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — For the first time since 1932, the number of registered Democrats in the Mountain State has fallen below 50 percent and Conrad Lucas, chairman of the state Republican Party, is calling the drop “the latest achievement for conservative West Virginians.”

“This is a really historic day for our state and our party,” Lucas said on Tuesday’s MetroNews “Talkline.” “Mathematically, it is impossible for a Democrat to win now in West Virginia — statewide — with only Democrat votes and that’s historic.”

According to numbers from the Secretary of State’s Office, out of all of West Virginia’s 1,226,745 registered voters as of June 30, a total of 49.9 percent were registered as Democrats (612,228 people), 28.8 percent as Republicans (353,106) and 19 percent (233,075 people) have no party affiliation. Registrations for both the Mountain Party (1,502) and Libertarian Party (1665) are around .1 percent.

The numbers reflect a trend for the state Democratic Party. In 1994, 65 percent of registered voters in West Virginia were Democrats. That number dropped to 54 percent in 2004 and 52 percent in 2012. The latest numbers showed further decline.

Those who are opting not to register as Democrats, though, are not registering as Republicans instead. In 1994, 30 percent of registered voters in West Virginia were Republicans. That number was 30 percent in 2004 and 29 percent in 2012.

“Folks aren’t leaving the Republican Party. They’re leaving the Democratic Party,” Lucas said of those numbers. “As we see new folks register, there is certainly a trend to be more independent, that’s where the real growth here has occurred, but it’s taking away from the Democrats’ voter registration advantage. We haven’t been hurt at all.”

West Virginia Democratic Party Chariman Larry Puccio downplayed the decline.

“The fact is Democrats still outnumber Republican voters nearly 2:1 – we’ll gladly take those odds, and will carry them to victory in November,” Puccio said in a news release. “The numbers show that Democrats will continue to lead in registration, and in the very near future, Independents will overtake Republicans. This trend means continuous victory for Democrats, as we saw in the last election, in 2012, when Democrats won 67% of all races across the state. The Democratic ticket from top to bottom this year is incredibly strong and has the support of Democrats, Independents and moderate Republicans alike.”

Currently, one in five registered West Virginia voters is independent and claims no party affiliation.

Kanawha County has the largest number of registered voters. Of the 135,917 total number of voters there, 68,307 are registered Democrats and 38,092 are registered Republicans. In terms of registered voters, the next largest county is Berkeley County with 67,576 people registered to vote. Of those, 22,427 are Democrats, 24,141 are Republicans and 20,446 have no party affiliation.

As of June 30, there are more Republicans than Democrats in the following counties: Doddridge, Grant, Jackson, Mineral, Preston, Putnam, Morgan, Ritchie, Tyler, Upshur and Wood.

Voters with no party affiliation outnumber Republicans in Jefferson County and McDowell County.

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