Democratic Party registration in West Virginia remains in swift decline. Consider these party registration numbers just released by the Secretary of State’s Office.
There are 474,961 registered Democrats in West Virginia. That makes up 38.6 percent of the 1,229,520 total number of registered voters. The Democratic party still has the most registered voters.
However, their numbers have been dropping rapidly. Ten years ago, West Virginia had nearly 657,000 Democrats. So, the number of Democrats has declined by 182,000, or 27 percent, just in the last decade.
The drop is even more stunning considering what has happened since the party’s peak years. In 1994, two out of every three voters in the state were Democrats (65 percent). At the time, top of the ticket Democrats dominated.
Senator Robert Byrd was re-elected with 69 percent of the vote. Sitting Democratic members of Congress Alan Mollohan, Bob Wise and Nick Rahall all won re-election by overwhelming majorities.
Governor Gaston Caperton was in the middle of his second term after winning re-election two years earlier with 56 percent of the vote. Also in 1992 Democrats won every position on the Board of Public Works and Democrat State Supreme Court Justice Tom McHugh won re-election unopposed.
But in recent years Republicans have made historic gains.
Republican Party registration has been on the rise. In 2000, there were 310,000 Republicans in the state, equating to 29 percent of the electorate. There are now 425,008 registered Republicans, making up 34.6 percent of all voters. So in the last two decades the number of Republicans has increased by 37 percent.
Republicans now hold one of two U.S. Senate seats, all three congressional seats, the offices of Governor (Jim Justice was elected as a Democrat, but then switched parties), Secretary of State, Auditor and Attorney General. Republicans are also the majority party in both chambers of the Legislature.
Part of the dramatic shift can be attributed to Secretary of State Mac Warner’s office working with county clerks to clean up voter registration rolls. But there has also been a significant philosophical shift.
As the national Democratic Party has become more progressive on issues like the environment and immigration, it has lost the support of moderate to conservative West Virginia Democrats. Also, President Donald Trump’s popularity—he won West Virginia in 2016 with 69 percent of the vote—has drawn more voters to the Republican Party.
Meanwhile, a growing number of West Virginians are registering to vote with no party affiliation. A record 281,587 West Virginians, or 23 percent, are now independent voters, which allows them to choose in a Primary Election whether to vote a Democratic or Republican ballot.