The weather doesn’t stop for anyone, including voters. For many folks heading to the polls this week, a big mess of rain, snow and possibly severe weather is on tap starting on Monday and stretching into Tuesday. But the impacts aren’t expected to last all day, so you should be able to find a window to go vote.
The low pressure system that will deliver some Election Day slop will drop out of Canada, riding a cold front into the Midwest all the way down to the Southeast. Rain is already spreading over that large swath of the country as the system begins to ramp up.
Come Election Day, a dusting of up to two inches of snow is possible in North Dakota, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. Gusty winds of up to 35 mph could lead to low visibility. The rest of the Midwest will deal with wind-driven rain, so pack your umbrella and a raincoat.
The same storm will bring rain to the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic. But the clash between the cold Canadian air and warm air streaming in from the Gulf of Mexico raises the risk of thunderstorms and even the possibility of tornadoes.
According to the Storm Prediction Center, the worst of the weather will strike on Monday with a bullseye of enhanced severe weather over the Southeast. Election Day will feature a slight risk of severe weather but over a much larger area that runs from Georgia to southern Pennsylvania.
Up to three inches of rain could fall in Kentucky, West Virginia, Virginia, and Pennsylvania, with the latter three home to some extremely competitive races. Rain will also spread into the Northeast by midday Tuesday, though forecasts show it winding down a little before the polls close for most areas save northern New England.
Most of the rest of the country will be pretty quiet weather-wise, outside of some snow showers and rain in the Pacific Northwest and Northern Rockies.
A 2010 study showed that in non-competitive races, rainy weather can keep people away from the polls. But if the 2016 presidential election demonstrated anything, it’s that every vote matters. And the same will be true in 2018, a watershed midterm election. There are an unfortunate number of roadblocks to voting in some states, but the weather shouldn’t be one of them.
“I think that if voter engagement is higher this year at a national level, that may mean that weather is less of a factor even in uncompetitive districts,” Bernard Fraga, a political economist at the University of Indiana who authored the aforementioned study, told Earther. “In addition, given that a large share of Americans now cast their ballots early (including today, in some states) it is plausible that some voters decide to vote early if bad weather is forecast for election day.”
Bundle up if you think there will be a line at your polling place, and drive safe (or tell your free or discounted Uber or Lyft driver to do so). While there’s going to be some butt weather out there, there will still likely be times of the day when things are less butt, so hit the polls then if you can.