Flooding the Vote: Hurricane Katrina and Voter Participation in New Orleans
To what extent did the extensive flooding caused by Hurricane Katrina affect voter participation in the 2006 mayoral election? This article uses voting record data from 20 election cycles, GIS-coded flood-depth data, and census data to examine the voting behavior of registered voters in New Orleans before and after Hurricane Katrina. We use a variety of statistical techniques, primarily propensity score matching methods, to examine how flooding affected mayoral turnout. We find that flooding decreased participation, but registered voters who experienced more than 6 ft of flooding were more likely to participate in the election than those who experienced less flooding. This finding confirms that increasing the cost of voting decreases turnout and suggests several mechanisms motivating an expressive component of voting behavior. Our results indicate there is a complex relationship between participation and the costs and benefits of turnout. Our findings about the characteristics of the voters who participated in the mayoral election provide insights into the scope of change for the political landscape of New Orleans.