Weather can impact voter turnout

Temperatures and precipitation can impact voter turnout.

An off-year election cycle means millions of voters won’t have a race to cast a ballot for, but for those who do, experts say Mother Nature could have a say on what side wins.

Races in Virginia, New Jersey and Georgia are all closely being watched to see which candidates prevail on Tuesday.

FOX Weather is forecasting cool temperatures through most of the country, on election day, with a few pockets of scattered showers in the Northeast and the Plains.

Dr. David Richards, an associate professor and political chair at the University of Lynchburg, is watching the Virginia governor’s race closely and said that the smallest impacts could significantly influence who will claim victory.

"If it is going to rain, that might help Republicans. Even if it’s just by a few thousand votes, that might be enough in a very, very close election, Richards said.

Richards cited a 2007 study that showed Republican-leaning voters turned out more than those voting for Democrats during rainy weather.

The study found that voter participation dropped off about one percent per inch of rain, and snowfall decreased turnout by nearly a half of a percent for every inch of accumulation. 

While Republicans might look to the rain gauge for clues on how an election might sway, other studies have found Democrats’ hopes lie with the thermometer.

Research published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology found that voter turnout increased by 0.14% for every 1.8°F jump in temperature.

"Increases in arousal due to increases in temperature might impact the result of an election, because of its proposed impact on collective behaviors such as voter turnout," the authors stated.

Additionally, the study found that warmer temperatures generally increased the likelihood that voters kept the incumbent party in power.

No matter what the weather is like on election day, political experts stress the final results ultimately depend on voters’ enthusiasm to get to the polls.

"A close race might drive some people to come out to the polls because they think that their vote makes a difference," Richards said.