Three contentious ballot initiatives won't appear before Alaska voters in Aug. 19 primary ballots. Instead, they'll appear in the Nov. 4 general election, since the Legislature failed to wrap up business more than 120 days before the primaries.
The initiatives include an efforts to legalize marijuana, increase Alaska's minimum wage, and an initiative that would require legislative approval for large-scale mines in the Bristol Bay region. Supporters and opponents of each initiative now have nearly three extra months to make their case to voters.
Taylor Bickford, a spokesperson for the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana like Alcohol in Alaska, says he does not expect the delay to affect the outcome of the initiative.
"Having more time to spread that message and educate voters about the benefits of moving this industry out of the underground market ultimately should be a good thing for the campaign," Bickford said.
However, opponents will also be getting more time to make their case. A Vote No on 2 Campaign spokesperson Kristina Woolston says the delay gives Alaskans more time to learn the details of the initiative, which includes a definition of marijuana that opponents say is too broad.
"We think the more time the better to help Alaskans understand what we're voting on," Woolston said. "We don't need to rush in to this decision, there's a lot yet to be learned."
Assistant professor Forrest Nabors, with the University of Alaska Anchorage's political science department, says the ballot initiatives now slated for November are hot-button issues to younger, more progressive voters.
"These ballot initiatives could very well bring young voters out to the ballot box on Election Day -- and if so, that will help Democrats," Nabors said.
The delay could also help Democratic Sen. Mark Begich -- facing GOP challengers Lt. Gov Mead Treadwell, former state attorney general Dan Sullivan and Fairbanks lawyer Joe Miller -- keep his job.
Nabors says a bigger factor in that race is what Miller does if he loses the August primary. If he runs as an independent in November, that could determine whether Begich gets re-elected -- and whether Democrats retain their Senate majority.
"It's politics," Nabors said. "You never can predict what's going to happen."