Monday, July 17, 2023
Because I live and work in central Ohio, I certainly pay attention to Ohio political developments more than others. But, assuming two new initiatives qualify for state ballot in 2023 (which we should know soon), I suspect lots of folks around the country will be paying more attention Buckeye State politics. Specifically, two high-profile topics --- full legalization of marijuana and abortion rights --- could come before Ohio voters this November. That possibility prompts the question in the title of this post and also the question in this new local article headlined: "How will two hot-button ballot initiatives impact Ohio’s November turnout?"
The local piece mostly discusses turn-out issues generally; I am also especially wondering how having an abortion initiative at the same time as a marijuana initiative may impact not only voter turn-out, but also the advertising budgets and advocacy efforts by backers and opponents of both initiatives. Here is a segment of the press piece covering just some of the issues a unique off-year Ohio election might raise:
Heading into this year’s election season, Ohio voters could wind up voting on two hot button issues at the same time. Election officials are currently combing through petitions for an abortion rights amendment and a recreational marijuana statute that could both go before voters in November.
Received wisdom holds that those hot button ballot issues are good way to juice turnout. Political science literature confirms that to a certain extent, that’s true. But what happens when two show up at once?...
Ohio State University political scientist Vladimir Kogan [has research showing] turnout in an average Ohio school district during a presidential election was about 62% of the 2010 voting age population. In a midterm, turnout dropped by 15 points and in odd year election it fell another 8 points. Even with abortion and marijuana initiatives boosting awareness, he explained, that’s a lot of ground to make up.
And Kogan argued the nature of the electorate in odd-year elections could present a challenge for an initiative’s backers, too. “The important thing is not the overall turnout but who’s voting,” Kogan said, “and again we know that not only this turnout overall quite different off-cycle but particularly the age profile. Really, it’s a much, much older electorate that votes in these lower turnout elections.”
“Probably not the target demographic for people that are trying to legalize marijuana,” he added.... In terms of how the two issues might interact with one another, [University of North Florida political scientist Mike] Binder and Kogan dismiss the idea that they might amplify or cancel one another out. Binder allowed that there are likely voters who would favor one issue and oppose the other, but probably not many. Instead, he described the two issues’ appeal like a Venn diagram — not a complete overlap, but a pretty significant one.
Notably, Ohio votes are already going to the polls — I voted last week — to weigh in on a special election concerning whether to raise the support threshold for constitutional amendments to require future amendments to surpass 60% for adoption. That initiative, which was put on the ballot by Ohio's General Assembly, would impact the Ohio abortion initiative (which is a proposed constitutional amendment), but note the marijuana initiative (which proposes only statutory changes).
My sense is that the marijuana reform initiative may ultimately benefit in various ways from the abortion initiative garnering much attention. For starters, I suspect overall turnout will be higher, especially among younger and more left-leaning voters. Also, I suspect many elected Ohio leaders will likely be more focused on speaking out against the abortion initiative rather than the marijuana initiative (same for likely campaign contributors). There may also be the broader benefit of more public polling on this topics before the vote and also a richer understanding of political trends and coalitions around these issues after the vote. Interesting times.