Ohio Politics

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Turn out will determine Issue 3's fate, experts say

Taking a marijuana legalization question to the state ballot in an off-year election could doom ResponsibleOhio’s $25 million effort to get voters to say yes to weed, a panel of experts said during a forum at Ohio State University Moritz College of Law.

OSU law professor Daniel Tokaji, an expert in elections law, predicted that state Issue 3 would “go up in smoke” on Tuesday, largely due to a poorly run campaign and difficult ballot language.

“I’d be really surprised if this thing passed,” Tokaji said. He noted that the ballot language is written to sway voters against Issue 3.

OSU law professor Douglas Berman, an expert in marijuana law and policy, predicted that the vote on Issue 3 will be closer than anyone thinks it will be. Berman has done legal work for ResponsibleOhio.

While Tokaji and others acknowledged that ballot issues often drive voter turnout, that might not be the case Tuesday because so many marijuana reform advocates and regular voters are troubled by Issue 3’s monopoly structure that grants exclusive commercial growing rights to 10 investor groups.

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John Hudak of the Brookings Institute said polling numbers on Issue 3 cannot be trusted because pollsters don’t have any way to predict who will turn out and therefore who should be in the survey sample.

Tokaji added that if he were a Democratic strategist, he would look for ways to put a more palatable marijuana issue on the ballot to help drive turnout in the 2016 presidential race.

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