The latest voter registration figures from Secretary of State Mac Warner’s Office show that Raleigh and Greenbrier Counties now have Republican majorities. It is still close; Republicans outnumber Democrats by just 321 voters in Raleigh County, while in Greenbrier County there are just 78 more registered Republicans than Democrats.
However, the numbers are reflective of the ongoing shift of voter registration in West Virginia from Democrat to Republican. Just four years ago, Democrats outnumbered Republicans by 7,800 voters in Raleigh County and 4,500 voters in Greenbrier County.
Raleigh and Greenbrier are the 22nd and 23rd West Virginia counties where the GOP is the majority party. In 2016, only 14 counties were Republican.
Statewide, there are still more registered Democrats than Republicans, but not by much. As of the end of last month, 470,515 voters were registered as Democrats and 435,925 as Republican (284,255 were independent or no party) for a difference of just 34,590 voters.
At the beginning of the year, Democrats had a 76,000 voter advantage and four years ago, the Democratic Party had 185,000 more voters.
Today, the two parties are closer than ever in registration. Democrats make up 38 percent of registered voters, 35 percent are Republican, and 23 percent are independent or no party.
Raleigh and Greenbrier are unlikely to be the last two counties to go red. Marshall, Mason, Mercer, Nicholas and Pocahontas counties are all trending in that direction.
West Virginia was once as blue as any state in the country. In 1994, two out of every three voters in the state were Democrats, but West Virginia has been trending red for two decades now, starting in 2000 when Republican George W. Bush carried the state over Democrat Al Gore.
Today, both chambers of the Legislature are Republican controlled. The Governor, all but one of the members of the Board of Public works, all three members of the U.S. House of Representatives and one of the two U.S. Senators are Republican.
Additionally, Donald Trump won West Virginia by 42 points in 2016, carrying all 55 counties, and he remains popular in the state today.
Another factor in the dramatic shift in voter registration is the work done by county clerks to clean up the voting rolls. The clerks, with guidance from Warner’s office, have used a variety of data sources to clear tens of thousands of inactive voters.
Since there were more Democrats than Republicans, a cleansing of the rolls meant that Democrats had more to lose.
West Virginia followed much of the rest of the nation in the 1932 election, choosing Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt over Republican Herbert Hoover. That election started West Virginia on a Democratic path that continued for over 70 years.
However, the blue has now faded to red and it is only a matter of time before Republicans overtake Democrats in registration.