Tuesday's Weather Unlikely to Depress Voter Turnout

Steven Shepard
National Journal

Most voters across the country are likely to encounter tranquil weather on Tuesday as they venture out to cast their ballots, according to the latest forecast. That's a stark contrast to a week earlier, when the remnants of Hurricane Sandy devastated parts of the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast coasts.

There are a couple of trouble spots, as showers persist over the Pacific Northwest and a potentially significant storm begins to gain strength across the southeastern United States before possibly heading Wednesday for the same areas most affected by Sandy .

The power remains out in many in the areas hit hardest by Sandy, and officials are scrambling to provide opportunities for all to vote in the face of electric outages and storm damage to polling places. For example, the electric utility on Long Island said Friday that hundreds of polling places will be without power on Election Day, Newsday reported Saturday. And confusion reigned in New Jersey on Friday as local elections officials attempted to coordinate with the state to cobble together a plan for Tuesday, the Star-Ledger of Newark reported.

Electrical outages, gas shortages, storm-related travel problems and the ongoing clean-up could deter voters in these areas on Tuesday, though it is difficult to predict to what degree that might happen -- and what effect, if any, that could have on elections up and down the ticket. Researchers' understanding of how weather conditions on Election Day affect the vote are a little clearer, though not significantly. Any causal relationship between inclement weather and a decline in turnout is difficult to prove, but some research suggests that those voters more easily deterred by less-than-ideal conditions are more likely to cast their ballots for Democratic candidates.

Rain is likely across parts of western Washington state -- site of a very competitive governor's race -- though that is far from unusual for that part of the country. Pleasant weather is expected across most of the rest of the Pacific Coast states and intermountain West, including the potential swing states of Nevada, New Mexico and Colorado.

Moving east, a cold front draped across the nation's midsection could bring showers to Minnesota and Wisconsin, though any rainfall is expected to be light. Rain chances will increase during the day across western Michigan, but cool and dry conditions are expected in Ohio on Election Day.

A low-pressure system is currently forecast to be located near the Georgia-Florida border on Tuesday morning. It will move along or near the southeastern U.S. coast during the day Tuesday and begin to strengthen.

The places most likely to be affected by this storm system are northern Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and parts of North Carolina. By Tuesday evening, rain could also stretch into southern parts of Virginia. If rain is going to have any impact on voter turnout on Tuesday, these are the spots to monitor.

Areas of the Northeast should be quiet on Tuesday, though some computer-model forecasts suggest that this new storm could bring more heavy rain, high winds and coastal flooding on Wednesday and Thursday to places still recovering from Sandy's landfall earlier this week.