During Monday night’s episode of The Rachel Maddow Show, host Rachel Maddow discussed popular ballot measures in a number of red or swing states that could help swing the tide in many close gubernatorial or Senate races. The MSNBC political commentator pointed out that a handful of states have initiatives to allow for the legalization of marijuana, either recreational or medicinal. At the same time, four states, all red, have measures on the ballot to raise the minimum wage. Maddow highlighted how the popularity of such measures could increase voter turnout and potentially swing close elections.
Below is video of the segment, courtesy of MSNBC:
The races that may be impacted the most are Alaska’s and Arkansas’ Senate races and Florida’s gubernatorial election. In Alaska, the state has measures on the ballot to both raise the state’s minimum wage and legalize marijuana. Arkansas voters will be deciding on raising the minimum wage above the federal level. Florida has a constitutional amendment on the ballot making medicinal marijuana legal. The amendment needs 60% in favor to pass.
As Maddow highlighted, both marijuana legalization and the raising of the minimum wage are generally popular initiatives that help spur turnout among voters that may normally skip an election. This is especially true with the minimum wage. In the four states where it is on the ballot, support is over 60% in each state. In fact, per the New York Times, there is little opposition to the measures, as opponents have pretty much given up. It is expected that the measures will easily pass.
As for the legalization of marijuana, it is tough to say if Alaska is truly in favor for legalization or not. Some polls show the measure clearly passing; others show it as a toss-up or even slightly down. However, Alaska is a notoriously tough state to poll accurately. One thing that can be said is that the combination of a minimum wage raise and legalization of pot on the ballot will definitely get out the vote. This can only be a good thing for incumbent Democratic Senator Mark Begich, who is in a close race with Republican Dan Sullivan, as higher voter turnout tends to favor the Democrat in a close race. (Begich supports raising the minimum wage but has generally been quiet on marijuana legalization.)
In Florida, the amendment to make medical marijuana available is coming down to the wire. A recent poll shows it over the 60% threshold needed for passage. However, other polls have shown it closer to 50%. Incumbent Republican Governor Rick Scott opposes the measure, while his Democratic opponent, former Governor Charlie Crist, has expressed his support. Currently, Crist and Scott are in a virtual tie as voters head to the polls. Crist’s support for this particular amendment could be the very thing that pushed him over the top against the polarizing Scott.
Finally, in Arkansas, the Republican candidate for Senate, Rep. Tom Cotton, appears to have a sizable lead against incumbent Democrat Mark Pryor. Heading into the final day, Real Clear Politics has the polling average at +7.1 in Cotton’s favor. However, Arkansas’ minimum wage raise initiative has overwhelming support. The most recent poll shows it up by 43 points. Sadly for Pryor, while he supports the measure, so does Cotton. The hope for Pryor is that the expected higher turnout in relation to this measure will bring him more votes from voters that the polls didn’t count as likely.
All we can really do it wait and see. However, it is something to look at that may not have been counted by poll watchers who are strictly looking at averages and ‘fundamentals.’
Justin Baragona is the Managing Editor at Politicus Sports as well as Senior Editor at PoliticusUSA. He was a political writer for 411Mania.com before joining PoliticusUSA. Politically, Justin considers himself a liberal but also a realist and pragmatist. Currently, Justin lives in St. Louis, MO and is married. Besides writing, he also runs his own business after spending a number of years in the corporate world. You can follow Justin on Twitter either with his personal handle (@justinbaragona) or the Sports site’s (@PoliticusSports).