Thanks to a strange series of coincidences marijuana legalization could now be what helps Democrats narrowly maintain control of the Senate – even though not one Senate Democrat is willing to publicly support this popular change yet.
Democrats have the Alaska state legislature’s inability to work quickly for this potential pot political windfall. This week the Alaska legislature needed to go into extend session, which means they will not finish work 120 days before the August 19th primary. As a result Alaska law required local election officials to move a marijuana legalization initiative scheduled for the August primary ballot to the November general election.
This date change could be what narrowly save Sen. Mark Begich (D-AK) re-election bid and Democrats control of the Senate.
There are strong indications that having legalization on the ballot has the unique ability to get young people to vote. In 2012 the three states with legalization initiatives saw a significant increase in the percent of young voters compared to 2008, but there was no similar increase in the rest of the country. Similarly, a George Washington Battleground poll found 69 percent said they were more likely to turn out if marijuana legalization is on the ballot.
Since Democrats have a 13 point affiliation advantage with voters under 30, any increase in youth turnout will have a noticeable benefit for Begich. Even a modest boost in youth turnout can legitimately make the difference between a narrow win and a narrow loss for Begich given how close the race is.
According to a new analysis by the New York Times, Alaska is the most competitive Senate race this year with Democrats and Republicans having exactly a 50 percent chance of winning. More importantly, it is also currently projected to be the tipping point election which will decide control of the Senate. On November 4th the nation could easily be up late waiting for result from Alaska to tell us if Democrats end up with a 50 senator majority (plus the Vice President who is the tie breaker) or 49 seat minority.
This one recently moved marijuana legalization initiative may just prove to be the small edge Begich, and by extension the entire Democratic party, needs for a close win.