Bad Weather Means Less And Less For Voter Turnout These Days

A lot of things drive voters to and from the polls, but weather is probably far down the list for most people.

Bad Weather Means Less And Less For Voter Turnout These Days
Getty Images / Scott Olson

There's an old political adage that Republicans should pray for rain on election day because the bad weather keeps more Democrats away from the polls. But recent studies show that no matter the party, weather plays a rather insignificant role in US voter turnout — where it can be measured at all.

Researchers who studied recent elections found if the weather does lower turnout, it affects voter turnout across all parties, but only slightly. One study found across 14 different U.S. presidential elections, each inch of rain reduced participation by just under 1 percent. The relationship was even smaller for snow, and non-existent for cold weather.

A voter in Minnesota fills out a ballot for in a primary election in August 2018

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Experts think the relationship between weather and voting is getting more marginal with each election, too. One Princeton University economics professor noted most pockets of the US don't get enough rain in November to adversely affect elections in the first place.

Researchers also note that because of a rapid rise in early voting across the US, many people don't even worry about what the weather will be like at their poll on Election Day. Currently, 37 states and Washington D.C. allow early voting without an absentee excuse. This year is on track to set a record for early voting. 

And in some special cases, dealing with the weather has actually made voting far more likely. After Hurricane Michael, Florida Gov. Rick Scott issued an executive order in mid-October to extend early voting periods and relax voting rules. Since then, early ballot returns have increased 70 percent overall.

Additional reporting from Newsy affiliate CNN