Will Weather Affect Florida's Primary Elections?

TALLAHASEE, Florida --  Weather could add some nail-biting drama in certain races across the Sunshine State this year due to the possibility of a tropical depression or tropical storm nearing the Florida peninsula on Primary Election Day.

Although it is still to early to predict with certainty where the system, dubbed Invest 96, will be on Tuesday, August 26, 2014,  some spaghetti models forecast that the system could be anywhere from southwest Florida to Florida's east coast in the early part of next week.

And it doesn't take tropical storm force winds to keep voters at home.  A 2007 Journal of Politics study found that rain significantly reduces voter participation by a rate of just less than 1% per inch.

According to a survey commissioned by The Weather Channel in 2012, 35% of undecided voters say that inclement weather would have a moderate to significant impact on whether they turnout to vote while only 19% of already-decided say that weather will have an impact.

Whether it is simple name-recognition or a larger campaign war chest, undecided voters tend to break for incumbents.  Undecided voters also tend to be more moderate and less engaged in political issues than already-decided voters.  This means that weather could affect the outcome of two Florida Senate seats held by moderate Republican incumbents who are facing conservative challengers.

Both Florida Senate Districts 30 and 16, held by Lizbeth Benacquisto on Florida's southwest coast and Thad Altman on Central Florida's east coast, are within the range of the spaghetti model forecasts for Invest 96.  

If heavy rains occur in either district on Election Day due to Invest 96, it could mean that moderate, undecided voters stay home while the more conservative, already-decided voters will still make it to the polls and vote for their challengers, Michael Dreikorn and Monique Miller.   Conversely, good weather in either district could increase the turnout of voters who would vote for the moderate incumbents.

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