There is now more evidence that marijuana legalization has the ability to get people out to vote.
According to a new George Washington Battleground poll, 69 percent of voters said a legalization ballot initiative would make them more likely to turn out to vote. Among this group 39 percent said it would make them much more likely while 30 percent said it would make them somewhat more likely to vote.
This fits with data from the 2012 election. I did a previous analysis and found that in the three states where legalization was on the ballot (Colorado, Oregon, and Washington State) turnout among young voters was up significantly compared to 2008, yet mostly unchanged in the swing states.
The perfect test of marijuana’s ability to drive turnout will come this summer in Alaska. A legalization initiative is on the August 19th primary ballot in the state. Normally turnout for primaries in non-presidential years is low, but if legalization can drive young people to vote turnout should be noticeably better than average.
With compelling evidence that legalization ballot measures can drive youth turnout it will be interesting to see if the Democratic party ever tries to exploit it in 2016 or 2020, since young people favor their party. There are a few states like Nevada and Ohio that allow ballot initiatives. It is at least theoretically possible (although unlikely) that a legalization initiative in Ohio increasing youth turnout could make the difference between Democrats narrowly winning and losing the Presidency.
Jon Walker is the author of After Legalization: Understanding the future of marijuana policy
Photo by thisisbossi under Creative Commons license