State Ballot Props on Health Care Repeal, Marijuana Could Drive Turnout
Voters won’t only get the opportunity to elect a new Congress in exactly three weeks — in 36 states, they’ll also get to [decide the fate of 155 ballot propositions](http://www.iandrinstitute.org/BW%202010-1%20Preview%20(9-26).pdf) on a wide-ranging series of topics, from increasing a state’s sales tax to reducing its carbon emissions. And while there’s no single issue on the scale of the same-sex marriage referendums that swept the nation in 2004 (and provided a crucial boost to Republicans), a number of propositions this time around serve as stand-ins for various cultural and political battles that are likely to galvanize certain sets of voters to go to the polls on Nov. 2.
The first major trend is a response to the new Obama health care law, in which several states are offering citizens the chance to cast a largely symbolic vote against its implementation within the state’s borders. The initiatives seem destined to fail in the courts, but [I’ve written a story today](http://www.iandrinstitute.org/BW%202010-1%20Preview%20(9-26).pdf) about how that fact hasn’t stopped a combination of conservative activists and health care industry backers from trying to push them through nearly 40 state legislatures as a means of taking a potshot at reform and touting its unpopularity. After passing overwhelmingly by referendum during Missouri’s August primary election, similar propositions exempting a state’s citizens from the mandate to purchase health insurance will appear on the ballot in Arizona, Colorado and Oklahoma next month.
The second big issue, which some strategists are already predicting will be the Democrats’ 2012 version of Rove’s same-sex marriage ban in 2004, is the legalization of marijuana. Legalization of cultivation, possession and transportation for personal use is on the ballot this year in California, while the legalization of medical marijuana (which California already enjoys) is on the ballot in Arizona, Oregon and South Dakota. And some analysts are already predicting the California measure might help drive turnout among young people, who in turn will be more likely to vote for Democrats Jerry Brown and Barbara Boxer over their Republican opponents in California’s statewide races:
Seizing on new independent polling data, proponents of Proposition 19 — the Golden State ballot measure that would make possessing and growing marijuana legal — argue the measure is going to drive younger-voter turnout in such a way that it will benefit the Democrats statewide, from gubernatorial retread Jerry Brown to Sen. Barbara Boxer.
“It literally is the thumb on the scale that has been generally missed by the polling models out there, and it is going to have an impact not only on the initiative but everything else on the ballot including the candidates,” said Dan Newman, consultant for the “Yes on 19” campaign.
Also up for a vote: Whether the state of Rhode Island should change its name.