Election 2018

Philly smashed the conventional wisdom that rain keeps people from the polls

Turnout was high on the city’s second wettest Election Day since 1950.

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Updated Nov. 13

Thought Election Day 2018 was rainy? You should’ve seen it 12 years ago.

When heavy storms were forecast for this year’s polling date of Nov. 6, people worried the wet weather would keep turnout low. That didn’t happen. According to turnout tracking blog Sixty-Six Wardsmore than 555,300 Philadelphians cast a ballot. That’s around 51 percent of registered voters, way more than the 34 percent who came out for the last midterms.

That’s all despite a whopping 1.62 inches of rain falling across the city. It may not sound like much, but one inch of rain equals more than 27,000 gallons and weighs more than 100 tons.

It turns out Tuesday’s precipitation is the second highest rainfall Philly got on an Election Day since the year 1950.

The only rainier Election Day here in 68 years was the 2006 gubernatorial election. On Nov. 7 of that year, Philly saw 1.81 inches of precipitation on its way to helping elect Ed Rendell to his second term as governor. It was also the first year Bob Casey was elected to the U.S. Senate — beating incumbent Rick Santorum. (This Tuesday, Casey was elected to serve his third term on the same seat.)

Although it’s conventional wisdom that rain depresses turnout, that hasn’t held true recently in Philadelphia. There were clear skies on Election Day 2014, when only 381,503 residents cast their ballots to help Gov. Tom Wolf defeat incumbent Tom Corbett.

Before that, gubernatorial/midterm turnout in Philly looked like this:

  • 2010: 435,665 votes
  • 2006 (the rainy year): 441,256 votes
  • 2002: 411,627 votes
  • 1998: 323,722 votes
  • 1994: 413,278 votes
  • 1990: 399,649 votes

The temperature in Philly, on the other hand, hovered around normal on Tuesday at a balmy 67 degrees Fahrenheit.

Over the past 68 years, the temperature has fluctuated quite a bit on Election Day.

Two years tied for hottest: the mercury reached 79 degrees Fahrenheit in 1971 and 1975. Both were mayoral elections in Philly, and both saw Frank Rizzo win. Meanwhile, Election Day in 1967 was the coldest at 43 degrees, when residents shivered as they elected James Hugh Joseph Tate mayor.

Want some more? Explore other Election 2018 stories.