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It will be a stormy L.A. election day for the first time in years. Will rain hurt turnout?

A voter uses her umbrella in the rain after voting at the L.A. County Lifeguard Headquarters polling location in Venice.
A voter uses her umbrella in the rain after voting at the L.A. County Lifeguard Headquarters polling location on Ocean Front Walk in Venice.
(Los Angeles Times)

An early November storm could dampen the chances for high in-person voter turnout Tuesday for California’s midterm election as Southern California braces for strong winds, several inches of rain and up to 2 feet of snow in the mountains.

A storm originating from the Gulf of Alaska is expected to peak Tuesday before tapering off Wednesday and dissipating into scattered showers, according to the National Weather Service. The system could dump between 1 to 3 inches of rain on lower elevations in Los Angeles County and between 2 to 3 inches in mountain areas.

A flood watch has been issued Monday night through Tuesday evening for portions of L.A. County, including the Antelope, Santa Clarita and San Gabriel valleys. The downpour has the potential to create flash flooding, rockslides and debris flows in recent burn scar areas.

California candidates and political activists have already been urging people to cast ballots early at voting centers or by mailing in their ballots in advance of the inclement weather. Studies have shown that early in-person voting and mail voting could help counteract the depressing effects that bad weather could have on voter turnout.

The overwhelming shift to vote-by-mail ballots fundamentally altered how Californians participate in elections. Ballot tabulation can extend for weeks afterward.

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The Republican Party of Orange County sent out an email Monday recommending members to vote as soon as possible to avoid getting stuck in the rain on election day.

“Election day lines are long and typically one to two hours long. Don’t risk getting caught waiting in the rain to cast your ballot,” the email states.

More than 17% of registered voters in L.A. County had cast their ballots for the midterm election by Sunday night, the vast majority voting by mail, according to the county registrar-recorder’s office.

More than 70,000 people in L.A. County have voted in person — about a third of whom voted Sunday — and more than 900,000 have voted by mail, as of counts late Sunday. Voting in Tuesday’s election remains open Monday and Tuesday, with voting centers closing Tuesday at 8 p.m., and mail-in ballots requiring postmarks of Tuesday or earlier.

L.A. has a half-century tradition of sending Democratic office holders like Karen Bass to the mayor’s office. Rick Caruso needs a big Latino vote to ‘“defy political gravity.”

The last time it rained on midterm or general election day in L.A. County was between 2 a.m. and 7 a.m. on Nov. 4, 2008, according to the Weather Underground. There was light rain in Los Angeles on the election morning of Nov. 4, 2008 but it gave way to sunny skies, a report at the time said.

There are 5.6 million people registered to vote in L.A. County this election, according to the county, about a million short of estimates of all eligible voters.

The weather not only has the potential to hinder high in-person turnout but could even affect the direction of tight races, such as the one between Republican Rep. David Valadao and Democratic Assemblymember Rudy Salas, who are battling to represent California’s 22nd Congressional District, which includes portions of Kern, Kings and Tulare counties, said Tom Holyoke, a political science professor at Cal State Fresno.

“That’s a very tight race that could go either way so for, Valadao, any loss of Republican votes could be extremely harmful for him,” Holyoke said.

California Rep. David Valadao is being challenged by Assemblymember Rudy Salas, who would be the first Latino sent to Congress from the Central Valley.

Although vote-by-mail experienced brief bipartisan support in 2020 during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, former President Trump’s unfounded claims of widespread mail ballot fraud have resulted in Republican-led states to pass laws creating new requirements for verifying voters and limiting access to ballot drop boxes and who can return a voter’s ballot. Democratic states, on the other hand, have attempted to make mail voting easier, leading to a partisan divide in voting practices.

“There is something of a propensity of Republicans to vote in-person versus Democrats,” Holyoke said. “With the big storm coming through tomorrow, that means a lot of Republicans would have to go out in the rain in order to vote in their polling stations and that could have a relatively small but depressing effect on the vote.”

The effects could be felt, in particular, in rural communities with less accessible and a fewer number of polling stations, Holyoke said.

“People may just not want to do that,” he added.

California is the latest target in a movement to grant 16- and 17-year-olds the right to vote in municipal elections. The option is on the ballot in this city.

Other races that could be affected include the 13th Congressional District, which features Democratic Assemblymember Adam Gray and Republican businessman and farmer John Duarte, as well as the 9th Congressional District, which pits Democratic Rep. Josh Harder against Republican Tom Patti, a San Joaquin County supervisor.

More details on how to vote in this election, the important races and what issues are at stake can be found at latimes.com.


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