- Associated Press - Thursday, April 21, 2016

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - As the 2016 primaries have neared many West Virginians have been switching which political party they are affiliated with and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump might be influencing the change.

The most people have switched from Democratic to Republican, reported the Charleston Gazette-Mail (https://bit.ly/26gGNfI ).

There are three major, potential reasons for the increase in party changes - the ease of switching parties online, the state’s transition to a Republican state and the rise of presidential candidate Donald Trump.

“You always have changes like that,” said Kanawha County Clerk Vera McCormick. “It all depends on the candidates out there.”

Belinda Biafore, chairwoman of the West Virginia State Democratic Party, said that most people don’t change their party affiliation when they register to vote. However, with the ease of changing party affiliation online, many people may have been inspired to switch.

The tight Republican primary race might also be encouraging people who were already voting Republican to officially make the switch.

“West Virginia is kind of taking a slow march toward becoming a redder and redder state, and this is the result of that,” said Josh Putnam, a political analyst and lecturer at the University of Georgia.

According to Kent Carper, president of the Kanawha County Commission, it’s the “Trump factor” that’s influencing the switch.

Biafore said some people might be switching parties to vote strategically against Trump, but she acknowledged that Trump might be contributing to the changing party affiliations.

In Kanawha County, 784 people switched from Democrat to Republican, while 202 people switched from Republican to Democrat, according to data from the West Virginia Secretary of State’s Office. Putnam County says 236 people switched from Democrat to Republican and 52 people went from Republican to Democrat.

Statewide, 7,706 people switched from Democrat to Republican and 1,507 people went from Republican to Democrat, according to data.

All numbers have increased compared to 2012 data. In Kanawha County, the number of voters switching from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party quintupled. In Putnam County and the state as a whole, it quadrupled.


Information from: The Charleston Gazette-Mail, https://wvgazettemail.com.

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