WV Voter Registration Hits Record Levels
by mgee, Tue Apr 29, 2008 at 08:48:05 AM EDT
In the mountain state of West Virginia, the close primary battle has brought out new voters of all stripes. Voter registration in the state has reached record levels, according to the Huntington Herald-Dispatch:
The number of registered voters eligible to cast ballots in the May 13 primary election have increased between 3 and 5 percent in Cabell, Wayne, Lincoln, Mason and Putnam counties since the 2006 general election.
Statewide, more than 1.18 million voters are registered, a 4 percent increase from November 2006, according to the Secretary of State's office.
The greatest part of that increase is to be found among registered independents, who are permitted to vote in the Democratic primary. West Virginia voter registration rolls show 22,000 new registered unaffiliated voters since 2006. There are also 16,000 new registered Democrats in the state, compared to just 4,800 new registered members of the state's moribund Republican party. The small, progressive Mountain Party also gained some membership.
In total, according to the Herald-Dispatch, West Virginia now has 665,234 registered Democrats and 347,760 registered Republicans. West Virginia now has 156,199 registered independents.
In some counties, the Republican party lost ground. The Herald-Dispatch reports:
In Cabell County, voter registration increased most among Democratic and unaffiliated voters, growing 821 and 769, respectively. Republican registration is down 1 percent in the county.
Cabell County is the home of the state's second largest city, Huntington. According to WV Public Radio, Kanawha County - the state's largest county, and home to the capital city Charleston - saw similar movement. The Democratic party gained about 1600 new voters in Charleston. The Republican party lost 45.
In some part, the increase in registered voters ahead of the May 13 primary must be attributed to excitement about the primary race between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, but credit also goes to voter registration drivers sponsored by county clerks throughout the state, online voter registration, and other outreach efforts - at high schools, senior centers, and even grocery stores:
Williams said the close race between Obama, D-Ill., and Clinton, D-N.Y., also has brought more attention to the state. More people, including unaffiliated voters, have signed up to help decide the race, he said.
County clerks in Wayne and Cabell counties went around their counties registering voters at a number of places, including high schools, retirement communities and senior citizen centers. The clerks said the registration drives netted hundreds of registered voters.
Holding public registration drives, such as the one at the Westmoreland Foodland, helped the county reach more people, said Wayne County Clerk Robert Pasley. New online registration and a number of voting options have also helped register more voters.
"People say 'I don't want to go out to Wayne to register.' So when you take registration out to them, it's more convenient for them," Pasley said. "As I go out to different places, I make sure to inform them about what types of voting are available to them."