The number of registered voters has been steadily growing in Letcher County over the past two years, but with most of the new voters registered as Republican or independent, the county is still registered overwhelmingly Democratic.
Traditionally, party registration has made little difference in elections here, and many people register as Democrats because of the perception that a local candidate has to be registered Democrat to win, and the fact that Republicans often don’t field enough candidates to have contested races in the primary.
When the polls open at 6 a.m. on Tuesday, there will 255 voters more than the same month last year, and 281 more than in January 2017, the earliest month for which figures were available .
The figure represents a modest gain of 1.5 percent in overall registration since January 2017, and 5.9 percent for the GOP. Though the percentage gain for Republicans is larger than any other party here, the actual numbers are small. Though the county that voted approximately 80 percent for Donald Trump for president, Republicans still make up only 28 percent of the county’s 16,647 registered voters, compared to 29 percent nationally.
Democrats gained only two voters here over the same period, an increase of less than one percent, and make up 68 percent of the county’s registered voters. About 40 percent of voters nationally are registered Democrats.
There are only 239 registered as independent in the county, up from 196 in January 2017, an increase of 2.2 percent. Independents are not a political party. Some states register these voters as “no party preference.” There are just 14 Libertarian voters here and one registered with the Constitutionalist Party. Though the Green Party fielded a presidential candidate in the last election, no one here is registered with that party. There are 397 voters in Letcher County registered as “other,” which includes a long list of minor political parties. That number is down from 436 in January 2017.
While there is no predicting turnout in local elections, it is usually considerably lower than in presidential elections. Local turnout for the 2016 presidential election was 56 percent, with 53.5 percent of Democrats, 66.4 percent for Republicans casting ballots. In 2014, the last county election, turnout was 47.8 percent, with 46.8 percent of Democrats and 54.3 percent of Republicans voting. Only 24.7 percent of other voters cast ballots.
Turnout was even worse for the 2015 General Election, when the governor was elected. Only 27.5 percent of Letcher County voters bothered — 25.5 percent of Democrats, 35.8 percent of Republicans and 12.3 percent of other voters.