Rain predicted for Tuesday’s election finale could affect voter turnout, Fresno County elections chief James Kus said.
“Rain or other bad weather is likely to have a damping effect on turnout (pun not intended). But Fresno County voters are a tenacious group and I expect a solid turnout tomorrow no matter the weather and the Fresno County Clerk/Registrar of Voters and our Election Workers are ready to serve the public throughout the day,” Kus said.
Fresno State political science professor Lisa Bryant confirms that the weather could play a role.
“Previous research does show that rain can slightly suppress in-person turnout, especially among people who don’t like to drive in inclement weather (e.g., elderly, novice drivers). There is no evidence that it hurts one party over the other,” Bryant said.
She added a caveat that most of the research is from the East Coast and before widespread vote-by-mail and early voting options.
“That said, Fresno County does have fairly convenient drop boxes and there is a drive-through ballot drop off available at the Clerk’s office, so there are options if people don’t want to walk too far in the rain,” Bryant said.
Ballot tracking information provided by elections research firm Political Data Inc. on Tuesday showed Republican ballot returns across Fresno County outpacing those from Democrats by seven percentage points (29% to 22%).
What might the final turnout look like?
“I do not have a prediction on turnout,” Kus said. “I can tell you that Fresno County has historically had about a 50% turnout for gubernatorial general elections, like this one,” Kus said.
Traditionally, presidential elections have a higher turnout than midterms, and general elections higher than primaries.
The most recent midterm general election in November 2018 saw a 56% turnout. That was under the old system, before the 2020 expansion of early voting and ease of voting by mail.
The 2020 presidential general election saw an 8% bump over the old system of 2016.
The number of registered voters has also increased with every election, with one aberration — the 2021 special election to recall the governor.
Kus explains that voter registration can be a “fluid process.”
“2021 and early 2022 have been a busy year for Fresno County Elections, and that has meant a lot of official Election mailings. That presents a lot of voter registration update opportunities during a traditionally quiet period. As we have received back undeliverable mailing, we have had the opportunity to tighten our active voter lists and provide voters the opportunity to update their mailing addresses. I expect the registration number will continue to increase as we move towards the 2024 elections (and we are already planning for approximately 520,000 registered voters for November 2024),” Kus said.
Vote-by-Mail Top Option
Since Fresno County became a Voters Choice Act county starting with the 2020 primary, voters have dramatically increased returning ballots by mail.
Since 2020, the county has opened voting centers at least four days in advance, with some early as 11 days. Also, every voter received a ballot by mail that can be returned without postage.
Comparing apples to apples, 65% of voters returned ballots in the 2018 midterm primary by mail. That number jumped to 92% this past June for the same type of election.
For the presidential general election, vote-by-mail increased from 55% in 2016 to 86% in 2020.
Early voting figures are likely to increase as well. This year’s general election has already surpassed early voting in the June primary. In 2018, 12% voted before Election Day; 15% voted early this June.
Comparative presidential elections also saw a significant bump in early voting.
Several Voting Centers Available
Ballots can be returned in the mail (no postage required), at voting centers or drop-boxes, or traditionally in-person voting.
Also, voters can drop off votes in a drive-thru system at the main county election office on Kern Street (between L and M streets) in downtown Fresno. That option is Tuesday, from 7 a.m. until 8 p.m.