Political Parties of West Virginia
What is considered a political party in West Virginia?
In West Virginia, an official political party is one that has gained automatic access to the General Election ballot and has the right to nominate its candidates in the Primary Election. The term "minor party" is not actually used in the law, but it is the common term used for groups of voters who achieve access for their candidates through signatures on nominating petitions.
What are the official political parties in West Virginia?
- The four official political parties in West Virginia (in alphabetical order) are:
- West Virginia Code defines political parties as "Any affiliation of voters representing any principle or organization which, at the last preceding general election, polled for its candidate for governor at least one percent of the total number of votes cast for all candidates for that office in the state..." (WV Code §3-1-8) This definition creates the avenue for a minor party to become an official party. As soon as a minor party achieves ballot access for its candidate for Governor by petition, and then wins at least one percent of the vote in the General Election, the minor party becomes official.
- The Democratic and Republican Parties have maintained official party status throughout West Virginia's history as a state. In the 2000 General Election, the Mountain Party gained official party status for the first time by winning 1.6% of the vote for Governor and continued their status after receiving 2.5% of the vote for Governor in 2004 and 4.5% in 2008. The Libertarian Party, which had achieved official party status in the 1998 General Election, lost official status when its candidate received less than one percent of the vote in a five-way race for Governor. The Libertarian Party regained official party status in the 2012 General Election.
- The Mountain Party will nominate candidates for Governor, President, and Vice- President at their state convention and for all other offices during the Primary Election.
- The Democratic and Republican Parties will nominate candidates for all offices on the ballot during the Primary Election.
- The number of minor political parties changes from election to election. These parties represent groups of voters who seek ballot access for one or more candidates in the General Election who represent a set of principles or beliefs. Some organize and petition only for candidates for President and Vice President. Some groups organize around state candidates and are not aligned with a national party-building effort. Still others work to nominate both candidates for President and for state and local offices. Minor parties that do not achieve nomination of a candidate for Governor cannot become an official party, even if other candidates receive a substantial percentage of votes.
- Click here for information on the Alternative Ballot process for Minor Parties and Independent Candidates
- When you register to vote in West Virginia, you may indicate a political party choice on the application to register, or you may check "No Party Affiliation."
- If the party you prefer is listed, you may check the box beside that name and you will be registered in that party.
- If the party you prefer is not listed, you may enter another party name on the line next to "Other." It is permissible to enter the name of any political party, regardless of whether the party is active in West Virginia.
- If you do not want to be associated with any political party, checking "No Party Affiliation" will make your registration independent of all parties.
- The important thing to remember is that your choice will affect your options of voting for partisan candidates in the Primary Election when parties make their nominations. Also, if you ever decide to run for office, you may only file for nomination in the party in which you are registered.
- West Virginia has a "closed" primary, which means that people registered in one party cannot vote for candidates in another party. At the Primary Election, if you have listed a major party choice on your voter registration, you will be given the ballot of that major party. You will not have the right to receive the ballot of a different party.
- If you register with no party affiliation, you will be given a non-partisan ballot in the Primary Election. The political parties have the right to decide who may participate in their nominating processes.
- The Democratic, Mountain and Republican Parties allow any voter who is not registered with an official major party to request their ballot for the Primary Election, but you have to ask the poll workers for a particular party ballot.
- Regardless of party affiliation, every registered voter receives the same ballot. Voters may choose from any candidate for each office on the ballot.
- Voters: A voter may change party affiliation by submitting a voter registration form showing the change to the County Clerk or at any Motor Voter office. The registration change must be made at least 21 days before the Primary Election in order to vote in the new party at the polls in the Primary Election. If the change is made later, it will apply at the next Primary Election.
- Candidates: A candidate may not switch from one political party to another less than 60 days before filing for nomination as a candidate of the new party. That restriction does not apply to candidates with no party affiliation who file a change of registration to select a party shortly before filing for office.
Democratic Party717 Lee Street, Suite 214
Charleston, WV 25301
Mountain PartyRural Route 1, Box 108
Ripley, WV 25271
Libertarian PartyPost Office Box 135
Jane Lew, WV 26378
Republican PartyPost Office Box 2711
Charleston, WV 25330