Can Independents Vote In The West Virginia Primary? The Mountain State Has Flexible Rules
Next up in American presidential primaries is West Virginia on May 10. At stake in the Mountain State are 29 pledged delegates for the Democratic candidates and 34 delegates for the Republican presumptive nominee, Donald Trump. Although it's fairly certain that Trump will head on into the general election, the Democratic side is still having its race, particularly where open primaries are concerned. The presence of unaffiliated voters — sometimes called independents — is making a difference in the results of some states' primaries. Independents can't vote in every state, so can independents vote in West Virginia's primary and make their mark on the presidential election?
The answer this time around is yes, independents can vote in West Virginia's presidential primary because West Virginia is a hybrid or mixed primary state that allows for it, according to FairVote.org. Essentially, unaffiliated voters can vote either Democrat or Republican (or third-party), but registered Democrats or Republicans can only vote for a candidate of their own party. In this case, independent voters truly get the best of both worlds and the most choices of any voter. Such is only the case in a handful of states, like Rhode Island, North Carolina, and Massachusetts. Some states, like California, Oklahoma, and South Dakota, are mixed primary only as far as Democrats go. This means although registered Democrats can vote outside their party, registered Republicans in those states cannot.
Independents, who are showing a tendency to support and vote for Sen. Bernie Sanders if their leanings are Democratic, are making a stand against partisan politics. This is one major reason why he is currently campaigning so hard in the Mountain State.
Although the proceeding primaries may not hold much weight in Trump's eyes — despite the presence of a number of contested local races on the ballot, for Sec. Hillary Clinton and Sanders, every single state counts. Polls open at 6:30 a.m. and close at 7:30 p.m., leaving voters a clear 13 hours to get the job done.
Will Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton garner the most votes come Tuesday? The answer depends entirely on how Democrats are inclined, and largely in part on how many unaffiliated voters — there are over 250,000, as of April 2016, according to the West Virginia Secretary of State's website — decide to show up and cast their votes on May 10. This race is no longer crowded, but it is certainly showing some serious candidate commitment.
Editor's note: This article has been updated from its original version.