Republicans continue to make gains in voter registration in West Virginia, and that means Democrats are losing more ground.
The latest numbers from the Secretary of State’s Office (as of June) show there are 428,542 Republicans and 396,079 Democrats. 249,951 have no party affiliation/independent. 36,844 are listed as “other,” while 8,818 are registered with the Libertarian Party and 2,157 are members of the Mountain Party.
Republicans now make up 38.18 percent of all registered voters, compared with 35.29 percent who are Democrats. 22.27 percent are independents.
Thirty-one of the state’s 55 counties have Republican voter registration majorities. That is up from 21 just one year ago. In fact, in June of 2020, there were nearly 47,000 more Democratic registrations than Republican, and Democrats held a 38 percent to 35 percent advantage.
Politically, the state has been trending Republican for the last 20 years. Donald Trump’s two overwhelming victories in the state and Shelley Moore Capito’s popularity—she got 2,000 more votes than Trump in 2020—have driven Republican enthusiasm and bolstered GOP registration.
But Republicans were winning races locally and statewide even when Democrats maintained an advantage in voter registration. One of the reasons is the old registration numbers were somewhat misleading.
Consistent efforts by county clerks and Secretary of State Mac Warner’s office since 2017 to clean up voting rolls have produced more accurate numbers. Clerks have concentrated on voter list maintenance by removing deceased voters and duplicate registrations (typically by people who had moved). Clerks also removed voters who had not participated in the last seven years or more.
Because Democrats outnumbered Republicans, the maintenance of the voter rolls had a greater numeric impact on them.
Unless the Democratic Party can reverse the trend, Republicans will soon outnumber Democrats in several more counties. Republicans have been gaining on Democrats in Tucker County and as of last month they are within 27 registrations of becoming the majority. In Pendleton County, the Democratic Party is down to a 22 registration advantage.
Perhaps more concerning for Democrats is what is occurring in several larger counties. Harrison County was once a Democratic stronghold, but their registration advantage has dropped from nearly 8,300 five years ago to just over 600. The shift in Cabell County is nearly identical—an 8,000 voter registration advantage in 2016 is down to just over 800.
West Virginia was loyally blue for many years. A massive registration advantage ensured that Democrats dominated state and federal elections. It is hard to imagine the Democrats ever having that kind of overwhelming advantage again.
The Democratic Party’s efforts now must be to simply stop the slide and try to regain a foothold for next year’s election.