CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Democrats remain the dominant political party in the state, but the party continues to lose registered voters even as Republicans pick up new members and the number of independents swells.
Figures released by the Secretary of State's Office this week show the Democratic Party has lost about 2,800 registered voters since mid-September 2011.
In that same period, about 2,300 people became registered Republicans. The number of independents - those who do not list a party affiliation - grew by 11,000 to almost 211,000.
All told, 640,888, or 52 percent of the state's voters, are registered Democrats and 352,304, or just about 29 percent, are registered Republicans.
Several factors affect the count: newly registered voters, voters who switch their affiliation and voters who are removed from the rolls because they are inactive or dead.
Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin won last fall's special gubernatorial election by a narrow margin, beating Republican Bill Maloney by just 7,546 votes.
Still, officials with both parties said the important factor on Election Day isn't registration, but turnout.
State Democratic Party Executive Director Derek Scarbro said the new registration numbers show the continuation of a long-term trend: the growing number of voters who are not picking a party.
"The biggest underlying trend is there is a big growth in independents," Scarbro said.
The Democratic Party in 2008 decided to allow independent voters to vote in the party's primaries, something the Republicans already allowed.
But Chad Holland, Republican Party executive director, said Democrats are, in fact, losing voters because of local policies that have left the state faring poorly and because of national Democratic Party policies that hurt the state's coal industry.
As a result, Holland said former Democrats have been gradually migrating from the party to become independents. And, Holland said, Democrats have been trying to sound like Republicans, particularly U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat who recently said he wasn't sure if he'd vote for Barack Obama for president this year.