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Republican voter registration inches closer to Democratic numbers at close of primary registration period

CHARLESTON — As voters turn in absentee ballots, turn out for early voting or prepare for the June 9 primary election, more Republicans and unaffiliated voters are registered to vote than Democratic voters this election in West Virginia.

According to voter registration numbers released Thursday by the Secretary of State’s Office, the number of voters registered with the Democratic Party as of the close of the primary election registration period on May 19 was 474,961, or 38.63 percent of the state’s 1.2 million registered voters.

The number of voters registered with the Republican Party as of May 19 was 425,008, or 34.57 percent. The number of unaffiliated voters was 281,587, or 22.9 percent. The May 19 voter registration totals put the Republican Party just 4 points away from tying the Democratic Party in voter registration.

“If this pace continues in just over 24 months, Democrats will lose their long-held voter registration advantage,” said Melody Potter, chairwoman of the West Virginia Republican Executive Committee. “Hardworking West Virginians know the Republican Party is the political party that stands with President (Donald) Trump and his America First agenda, and they’re expressing support for the robust Trump economy, more jobs, and lower taxes with their Republican voter registration preference.”

Both the Republican Party and unaffiliated categories of voters have seen growth in their voter registration numbers since the 2016 primary elections, the Mountain Party, Libertarian Party and other minor parties have seen growth as well. Only the Democratic Party has seen shrinkage in its voter registration totals. Brittni McQuire, communications director for the West Virginia Democratic Party, said enthusiasm remains on its side.

“Democrats in West Virginia still hold the advantage in voter registration numbers and we are far exceeding our voter registration totals with the absentee voter turnout,” McGuire said. “The enthusiasm we are seeing this election is incredible. West Virginians are frustrated and let down by Republican Leadership and the numbers we’re seeing in our absentee totals reflect just that. West Virginians are ready for a change after four years of failed, corrupt leadership from the Republican Party in West Virginia.”

When compared to voter registration totals from April 30, 2016, going into the primary election that included primaries for Republican and Democratic candidates for U.S. President, the Democratic Party saw a 17.82 percent decrease in voter registration between 2016 and 2020. The Republican Party saw a 13.57 percent increase in voter registration during the same period, and the number of unaffiliated voters increased by 10.75 percent.

Minor parties also saw voter registration increases between April 2016 and May 19. The Mountain Party increased its rolls by 39.19 percent, from 1,646 registered voters in 2016 to 2,291 voters as of last week. The Libertarian Party registration increased by 134.99 percent, from 3,241 to 7,616. Voters registered with other parties increased by 24.67 percent, from 30,525 to 38,057.

Voter registration decreased slightly over the last four years, from 1.24 million in April 2016 to 1.23 million as of May 19 — a 1.05-percent decrease. According to the Secretary of State’s Office, county clerks have removed 191,936 people from the voter rolls over the last 39 months due to outdated registrations, deaths, people who have moved out of state, and convicted felons. During the same 39-month period, 177,940 people have registered to vote, including 54,096 eligible high school students.

Early voting in the state started Wednesday and will continue every day except Sunday until June 6. Early voting is available Monday through Friday during normal business hours at county courthouses or other designated locations. Saturday voting takes place between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Primary election day is June 9.

Even before early voting, West Virginians have been casting absentee ballots. The Secretary of State’s Office issued an emergency rule in March allowing voters to use the coronavirus as an excuse to request an absentee ballot. In April, county clerks mailed out absentee ballot applications to all registered voters. As of Thursday, 20.6 percent of registered voters have requested an absentee ballot, with 12.1 percent of voters casting an absentee ballot.

(Adams can be contacted at sadams@newsandsentinel.com)

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