PARKERSBURG – A change in the West Virginia primary voting procedure may account in large part for an increase in non-partisan registrations.
This will be the first year in West Virginia those not registered with either of the two major political parties can request a ballot from either the Democrat or Republican parties at the May 13 primary.
As of Wednesday, Wood County had 21,739 registered Democrats, 21,749 Republicans, 8,203 non-affiliated, and with other non-affiliated added in, a total of 51,974. For the 2004 primary, Wood County had 22,189 Democrats, 20,792 Republicans, 7,369 no party, and with other unaffiliated, a total of 50,526, according to statistics from the secretary of state’s office. For the 2000 primary, Wood County saw 19,959 Democrats, 18,423 Republicans, 4,653 other and with other unaffiliated parties, a total of 43,051 registered. In 1996, Wood County had 21,393 Democrats registered on the active rolls, 19,161 Republicans, 3,735 Independents for a total of 44,289 active voters.
“We’ve been pretty busy with registration, some are registering for the first time, some people haven’t voted for many years and are re-registering. We’re also having a lot of people changing their registration, and most are going non-partisan,” said Melody Ross, deputy clerk in the voter registration office. Ross said the change in the primary procedure is probably a factor in the increased non-partisan registrations.
“Non-partisan registered voters do need to remember they must request a ballot for the party they want at the primary, though, pollworkers are not permitted to suggest one. You have to request the ballot style you want,” she said.
Wood County Clerk Jamie Six said while his office has seen some increase in registrations, that is not atypical for a presidential year election, and hasn’t even approached what happened in 1996.
“It certainly has picked up some, but in 1996 we actually handled, on the last day of voter registration, over 1,000 people registering, 700 of those were new registrations,” Six recalled.
The clerk said he doesn’t anticipate any decrease in voter turnout for the primary just because West Virginia’s primary is later.
“It hasn’t made a difference in the past, we still have a lot of races. This will be one of the largest ballots we have had, and we have some major races that will be decided in the primary. I’m anticipating a big turnout, especially in early voting. I think we’ll see 5,000 to 6,000 people take advantage of early voting alone. We are planning to double the number of iVotronics (the touchscreen voting machines) that will be available for the early voting,” Six said.
Registration deadline for the May primary is April 22. Registration can be done through governmental entities such as the Department of Motor Vehicles when you are getting your license, a registration form can be downloaded from the secretary of state’s Web site www.wvsos.com or from the Wood County’s Web site: www.woodcountywv.com. The voter registration office at the courthouse is on the fourth floor, office hours are 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. Ross said residents should bring a driver’s license with their current Wood County address. A current utility bill, bank statement, government documents, or pay stub are acceptable as long as they have the current address, post office boxes and rural routes will not be accepted, the new 911 address must be used.
Anyone who will be 18 by the Nov. 4 general election can register and vote in the primary.
Anyone who has not voted in an election in seven years may have had their registration purged, and they need to check the status of their registration, this can be done by calling the clerk’s office at 424-1860.