"I do know of several people who have changed from Republican to independent," said Reva Mickey, who leads Jefferson County's Democratic Executive Committee.
Mickey last week said she was aware of one Democrat who switched to no party affiliation, which has been a growing trend in the Eastern Panhandle.
Since May 2006, 4,016 people have registered to vote with no party affiliation in Berkeley, Jefferson and Morgan counties, according to voter registration figures compiled last week. That growth more than doubled the gains by either of the major parties and now makes up nearly 24 percent of the region's total registration, records show.
Of the 4,117 voter registrations in Berkeley County since the last primary election, 2,079 people did not affiliate themselves with any political party, according to Berkeley County Clerk John W. Small's office. Republicans and Democrats each gained more than 1,000 to increase the county's total registration to 60,674.
In Jefferson County, a traditionally strong area for Democrats, Republican party registrations outgained Democrats by nearly 150 people since 2006. There was an increase of 1,604 "indies," as Mickey called them last week, in Jefferson County.
As of last week, about 26 percent of the 32,588 registered voters in Jefferson County did not choose a political party, the highest percentage of the three Panhandle counties, followed by Berkeley (23.3) and Morgan (18.6) counties.
Staton attributed the increase in not selecting a party in part to population growth, particularly new residents who have moved from Virginia, where they were not required to register by political party.
John Fink, Berkeley County's Democratic Executive Committee chairman, attributed at least some of the county's large number of unaffiliated voters to the presence of federal jobs in the region and the polarization of the extreme factions of each political party.
"You really can't wear your politics on your sleeve" when you work for the government, Fink said.
Though Fink and Mickey were strong supporters of opening the Democratic party's primary election to voters with no party affiliation, they both recalled receiving significant resistance from many other areas of the state for a number of years.
Fink said there were fears that independent voters would conspire to nominate the weakest Democratic candidates to help the GOP win.
"I think we give the Republican way too much credit," Fink said. "I don't think all the independent voters are on the same page."
Mickey, a leading advocate of the change, said Democrats have nothing to fear if their candidates are doing their jobs and are focused on the issues at hand.
"I think our choice of candidates is so superior," Mickey said.
Number of registered voters in the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia (number in parantheses is increase over two-year period):
Republican - 36,711
Democrat - 38,358
No party - 20, 724
Total - 96,772
Republican - 38,360 (1,649)
Democrat - 39,809 (1,451)
No party - 24,740 (4,016)
Total -103,995 (7,223)
Republican - 22,323
Democrat - 21,728
No party - 12,089
Total - 56,557
Republican - 23,381 (1,058)
Democrat - 22, 785 (1,057)
No party - 14,168 (2,079)
Total - 60,674 (4,117)
Republican - 9,707
Democrat - 13,270
No party - 6,966
Total - 30,226
Republican - 10,097 (390)
Democrat - 13,519 (249)
No party - 8,570 (1,604)
Total - 32,588 (2,362)
Republican - 4,681
Democrat - 3,360
No party - 1,669
Total - 9,989
Republican - 4,882 (201)
Democrat - 3,505 (145)
No party - 2,002 (333)
Total - 10,733 (744)
Sources: Offices of West Virginia Secretary of State Betty Ireland and Berkeley, Jefferson and Morgan county clerks