The last time I blogged about the weather and how it may or may not affect voter turnout, we were headed into a federal election in the late fall. Skies were grey and gloomy for advance voting.

Here we are, enjoying a sunny spring day on Vancouver Island, choosing our provincial leaders. Despite the unsettled conditions, we’ve had a fair amount of sunshine in the last two weeks, and nearly 20 per cent of eligible voters flocked to the advance polls. That’s more than 600,000 people!

Does the weather affect voter turnout?

From time to time, political pundits will blame bad weather for a low voter turnout, and praise Mother Nature for delivering sunshine on election days, hoping it will encourage people to get out and vote.

But is there a statistically proven connection between the weather and the number of people who cast ballots?

A 2007 study published in the Journal of Politics specifically looked at the relationship between meteorological conditions and lower levels of voter turnout in American elections. The research found that, when compared to normal conditions, rain significantly reduces voter participation by a rate of just less than 1 per cent per inch, while an inch of snow reduces attendance by almost 0.5 per cent.

North of the border – the theory may not ring true, at least for federal elections.

Statistics Canada reports voter turnout of 79% for the 1963 federal election when spring-time weather had clear skies in some centers, and significant snowfall in others. Participation hit an all-time low in 2008 at 58.5%. Conditions were rainy and windy across the country that October, with no major snow.

And when we look at the voter turnout for provincial elections in B.C. since 1996, no real pattern emerges between the weather conditions and voter turnout. The table below presents the weather conditions specifically for Victoria and Vancouver, although weather trends were similar throughout many locations in the province on General Election days.

wx voting table

Too Close to Call

Clearly more research needs to be done on the subject, as it seems too difficult to make a definite blanket statement about the weather’s influence on voter turnout. I gather I’ve got about 4 years until the next provincial election to pour over the numbers.

Until then, rain or shine, today is a good day to vote. Here’s your afternoon forecast: