Medical marijuana on the Florida ballot in November good news for Democratic candidates

Pot issue to draw younger, more liberal voters

TAMPA, Fla. - When attorney John Morgan was asked if he was bankrolling the medical marijuana petition drive in Florida primarily to help his friend and colleague Charlie Crist, he gave a characteristically  colorful response.

"The people who say that are political hacks who we all hate. That's why they have an approval rating of 7 percent. They're b.s. artists," he said.

Whatever Morgan's motives, University of South Florida Political Science professor Susan MacManus believes the marijuana issue will drive up the number of younger voters, especially this year.
"Normally in a midterm election or non-presidential year, young voter turnout really drops. So for Democrats to have more younger voters show up at the polls is a positive," said MacManus.

Putting initiatives on the ballot  that appeal to certain voters is an old tactic. Some say a ballot initiative banning gay marriage in Ohio in 2004 energized conservative and gave the state and the presidency to George W. Bush.

But marijuana may be different.

One study of voter turnout found a sharp increase in young voters in Washington, Oregon and Colorado where pot legalization was on the ballot.  Medical Marijuana initiatives don't appear to motivate young voters as strongly.

But in the upcoming Governor's race, the lines are drawn clearly. Republican Rick Scott said he will vote against medical marijuana. Democrat Charlie Crist says he'll vote for it. But Dr. MacManus says that one issue won't be decisive for most voters.

"We don't have a history of one-issue voters. At most, about 10 percent will pick one issue and that's how they'll vote on a candidate," said MacManus.
The marijuana amendment needs approval by 60 percent of the voters in November. The latest poll shows the idea favored by 62 percent of Floridians. The Governor's race is also tightening up with only a two point difference.

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