New Analysis Shows Climate Change Is Making it Harder to Vote

Washington, D.C. — Americans across the country are voting in record-breaking numbers, despite wildfires, hurricanes, and extreme heat making it harder and more dangerous for individuals to exercise their right to vote. 

A new Climate Power 2020 analysis found nearly two dozen instances where 2020 general election voters have been adversely impacted by climate change. From passing out because of record-breaking heat to being displaced by wildfires, or having polling places closed because of supercharged hurricanes and history-making early snowstorms, the climate crisis is having serious impacts on voters in battleground states like Florida, Georgia, and Texas, and other communities across the country. 

The climate crisis is here, and communities are already living with its consequences, which now also include voter disenfranchisement. The same communities already facing long lines or reduced polling locations close to home are also disproportionately impacted by extreme weather and climate change.

For example, three people passed out while at a voting location in Chatham County, Georgia on Oct. 13  as temperatures in Savannah broke records that day. After being hammered by back-to-back hurricanes, 85% of polling locations in Lake Charles, Louisiana were relocated. In Colorado, officials had to evacuate ballots as the East Troublesome Fire forced the area’s residents to flee and polling centers in Larimer County were closed because of wildfires. 

Climate change has emerged as a top-tier issue for voters this election after a year of devastating hurricanes, record-breaking wildfires, extreme heat, flooding, and more. Almost two-thirds of voters say comprehensive climate legislation should be a priority for the next Congress and the president in 2021, including about a third (34%) who say it should be a top priority, according to a September Yale/Climate Nexus/George Mason poll. An October CNN poll found that 55% of voters said climate is very or extremely important, while another 21% say moderately important, in determining who they will vote for as president. 

Today’s analysis of the impacts of the climate crisis on voters comes as Hurricane Zeta has left 77% of New Orleans residents without power and 32.7 million people from the Gulf Coast under Tropical Storm warnings. In Colorado, the Cameron Peak Fire, which has burned 208,663 acres so far, is still raging. Both have forced the closure of voting stations.

Here is the list compiled of instances where 2020 voters have been impacted by climate change: 

10/13 Savannah, GA

  • Three people passed out while at a voting location in Chatham County. Temperatures broke records in Savannah that day.

10/13 Effingham County, GA 

  • An older lady fainted in the check-in room Tuesday morning. She was taken away by ambulance. Nearby Savannah International Airport posted a new record high temperature on October 13th, reaching 90 degrees and breaking the previous record of 88 degrees set in 1986.

10/14 Louisiana

  • Thousands who fled or were displaced by Hurricanes Laura and Delta remain scattered in temporary housing as election day approaches.

10/21 Lake Charles, LA 

  • “Due to Hurricane Laura, 85% of our polling locations were relocated to mega centers.” Officials warned that with decreased polling sites, large numbers of voters are expected at the mega centers on Election Day, putting voters at risk for COVID. 

10/22 Grand County, CO

  • Officials had to evacuate ballots as the East Troublesome Fire forced the area’s residents to flee.  

10/23 Grand County, CO

  • The wildfires spreading across the state have put election officials to the test to ensure everyone’s ballots are protected.

10/25 Colorado

  • The Colorado Secretary of State’s Office released guidance for voters who are displaced by numerous wildfires in the state.

10/26 San Angelo, TX 

10/26 U.S. Gulf Coast

  • Early voting was expected to be impacted by heavy rain and flooding from Hurricane Zeta.

10/27 Larimer County, CO

  • Polling centers in Larimer County were closed because of wildfires in the area. Officials said it may take days to re-open the polling locations.

10/27 Doña Ana County, NM

  • “Outdoor, manned absentee ballot drop boxes will be pulled indoors at Early Voting locations Tuesday due to snow and extreme weather conditions in Doña Ana County.” Moving outdoor polling locations inside puts individuals at risk of coronavirus in a state where cases are surging. On October 27th, weather stations at NMSU and Jornada Experimental Range recorded record snowfall amounts and record low temperatures. Just five days earlier on October 22nd, NMSU posted a record high temperature of 88 degrees, topping the previous record of 87 set in 2003.

10/27 Orange County, CA

  • Numerous places around Irvine and other parts of the county were set up as evacuation centers, but potentially just four of those sites, officials said, were also slated to be voting centers, raising the possibility that they may not be able to open for voters later in the week if the fires do not subside.

10/27 Las Cruces, MN

  • Alternative voting locations put in place due to the earliest snowfall ever fallen in the area. 

10/27 Odessa and Midland, TX

  • All early voting locations in Midland County are closed for the day but may reopen Wednesday, depending on weather conditions. Midland International Airport posted a record low temperature of 27 degrees on October 26th, less than two weeks after setting a record high of 97 degrees on October 14th.

10/28 Mobile County and Baldwin County, AL

  • Early voters may be voting in hurricane conditions as the counties haven’t changed the timings for early voting ahead of Zeta. 

10/28 Santa Rosa County and Okaloosa County, FL 

  • All early voting locations will close at 3 p.m. Wednesday because of Hurricane Zeta.

10/28 Lake Charles, LA

  • “In the aftermath of Hurricanes Laura and Delta, nearly 70 percent of 123 voting precincts in the Lake Charles area were moved to a new location, according to Lynn Jones, the Calcasieu Parish Clerk of Court. Residents from 85 voting precincts have been directed to three consolidated ‘mega-sites’ to vote during the early voting period and for the general election on Nov. 3.”

10/28 South Florida Panhandle

  • Some Florida Panhandle Voting Sites Closing Early Due To Hurricane Zeta 

10/28 Escambia County, FL

  • Early voting will continue through Saturday, but hours will be abbreviated due to Hurricane Zeta. 

10/28 Larimer County and Grand County, CO

  • “In Colorado, state and local election officials are scrambling to help thousands of voters in Larimer and Grand counties who evacuated from the East Troublesome and Cameron Peak fires.”

10/28 U.S. Gulf Coast

  • Bad weather ahead of Hurricane Zeta forced early voting sites to close for hours in the western Florida Panhandle. Tropical storm warnings covered a large swath of the South, from Louisiana and Mississippi into Alabama and Georgia, including all of the Atlanta area.