Oklahoma voters on Tuesday, March 7, will be deciding on the legalization of Cannabis for adults 21 and older. So, why haven’t you seen a dramatic, noisy clash of the Yes and No campaigns leading up to the referendum?
That’s because the opposing campaigns have heavily focused on targeting messages. The ads are aimed at voters who are likely to actually show up, reports The Oklahoman.
“In an election like this, with nothing else on the ballot, turnout obviously will be critical,” said Emily Lang. Lang, a longtime Oklahoma political consultant, is not involved with either campaign.
Lang said the opposing campaigns precision-target their messages to those favoring their side of the issue.
According to Lang, in typical elections, many offices are up for grabs. Campaigns spread messaging more broadly because more voters will end up visiting the ballot box.
“In a general election, we have to cast a wider net because people are going to go vote, and they’re going to check yes or no on a state question whether they’ve ever heard from you or not,” Lang said.
Question 820 is the only thing on the ballot in most counties. That means a person standing in the ballot box probably showed up specifically to vote for or against it. There aren’t any other issues bringing Oklahoma voters to the polls. So the campaigns on either side are counting heavily on turnout to win.
According to records filed with the Oklahoma State Ethics Commission, the Yes campaign has spent over $1.6 million in the past month, mostly on advertising. The No campaign, which only launched in late January, has reported spending $218,000.
Polls will be open on Tuesday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Michelle Tilley, director of the Yes campaign, said she expects to have raised and spent about $5 million to legalize adult-use recreational marijuana in Oklahoma. That includes the signature gathering effort that took place last year to put SQ 820 on the ballot.
She said that as far as she knows, this election is the first in the country where the only issue on the ballot is legalizing marijuana.
Activists Are Watching
“So we know that a lot of people who are interested in that aspect of it are paying attention,” Tilley said. “Our big job for this entire campaign has been to educate and register new voters, and then activate them.”
Tilley said the campaign has done its best to identify the types of voters who would support SQ 820, and targeted their communications toward that group. That includes the thousands of volunteers and donors who signed up to help the Yes on 820 campaign, along with the registered voters who signed a petition to place it on the ballot.