CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) — A study by the Center for Legislative Accountability (CLA) found a record level of political polarization among state lawmaker voting patterns in the United States during 2021.

The CLA examined all 7,400 state lawmakers across all 50 states and found a 64.99 percentage-point difference between voting patterns of Republicans and Democrats. The CLA says this marks the highest level of political polarization since the organization began tracking such data in 2015.

In addition, the CLA rated state legislatures on how often lawmakers voted conservatively across 186 policy categories.

Below are the CLA’s 2021 conservative statistics for West Virginia, including State Senate and House numbers, lawmaker leaderboard ratings, legislators’ voting patterns, and more.

West Virginia Legislature Overview

The CLA gave the West Virginia Legislature an overall conservative rating of 63% for 2021. This ranked the state at No. 10 compared to the other 49.

The issues most prominently discussed in 2021 by state legislators were property rights, free speech, elections, the Second Amendment, and regulations. The issues discussed least were taxes, budget and spending, according to the CLA.

The CLA also found that neither the House nor Senate moved toward the “coalition of the radical left” in 2021.

State House of Delegates

The CLA found the West Virginia House of Delegates’ conservative average raised from 63% in 2020 to 70% in 2021.

There are currently 77 Republicans in the House, an 81% average up 1% from the year 2020. There are 23 Democrats in the House, a 34% average down 6% from 2020.

State Senate

The CLA found the West Virginia Senate’s conservative average was 68% in 2021, down 1% from 2020.

There are currently 23 Republicans in the Senate, an 83% average up 5% from 2020. There are 11 Democrats in the Senate, a 37% average down 20% from 2020.

Political leaderboard

The CLA found that state lawmakers with the highest and lowest 2021 conservativeness ratings were all from the West Virginia House.

West Virginia legislators with the top conservativeness ratings included:

  1. Del. Shannon Kimes (R-Wood) at 93%;
  2. Del. Austin Haynes (R-Fayette) at 90%; and
  3. Del. Terri Sypolt (R-Preston) at 90%.

Legislators with the lowest conservativeness ratings were:

  1. Del. Danielle Walker (D-Monongalia) at 25%;
  2. Del. Cody Thompson (D-Randolph) at 27%; and
  3. Del. Larry D. Rowe (D-Kanawha) at 28%.

The House Republican with the lowest conservativeness rating was Del. Christopher Toney (R-Raleigh) at 60%. On the other hand, Del. Mick Bates (D-Raleigh) was the House Democrat with the highest conservativeness rating of 54%.

The Senate Republican with the highest conservativeness rating was Sen. Charles Clements (R-Wetzel) at 90%, while the lowest was Sen. William Hamilton (R-Upshur) at 62%.

The Senate Democrat with the highest conservativeness rating was Sen. Robert Plymale (D-Cabell, Wayne) at 46%, while the lowest was former Sen. William Ihlenfeld (D-Ohio) at 29%. Ihlenfeld resigned in October 2021 to become U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of West Virginia.

Lawmaker voting patterns

In 2021, West Virginia state lawmakers voted 69% of the time with a conservative position, according to the CLA.

Specifically, the State Legislature voted with a higher percentage of conservative positions on issues such as:

  • The Second Amendment (96%);
  • Elections (93%);
  • Abortion, right to try, physician-assisted suicide, and marriage and gender (84%);
  • Federalism and Local Empowerment (82%);
  • Government Integrity and Transparency (78%);
  • Regulations (78%);
  • Education (77%); and
  • Welfare and poverty (77%).

Whereas, in comparison to the above numbers, legislators voted with a lesser percentage of conservative positions on the following issues:

  • Law and judiciary (70%);
  • Labor (68%);
  • Energy and the environment (59%);
  • Healthcare (56%); and
  • Taxes, budget and spending (35%).

Additionally, 2021 bills that had full conservative support in the State Legislature included:

  • HB 3300: Fostering Economic Growth by Phasing Out the State Income Tax
  • HJR 3: Advancing Broad Machinery and Motor Vehicle Property Tax Relief

On the other hand, bills met with full conservative opposition were:

  • HB 3310: Enriching the Solar Energy Industry Through “Power Purchase Agreements”
  • SB 305: Expanding Cronyism through a Sales Tax Exemption for Aircraft Equipment and Maintenance
  • SB 344: Expanding Cronyism by Making Permanent Tax Credits for Owners of “Historic” Buildings

This report uses information from a study published by the Center for Legislative Accountability (CLA), which is a project of the Conservative Political Action Coalition (CPAC) Foundation and the American Conservative Union Foundation.

The CLA publishes individual conservative ratings for all federal and state lawmakers. The organization has also created a comprehensive conservative policy database with detailed bill analyses.