Pro-marijuana forces in San Jose, Calif., had an idea to flex their political muscles: Offer free and discounted weed to medical-marijuana users in exchange for voting. Surely, scores of people would turn out to cast ballots in Tuesday's primary, right?
Doesn't look that way. Turnout in San Jose's primary race, where five City Council seats and the mayor's post were on the ballot, was abysmally low. This, despite Silicon Valley Cannabis Coalition's "Weed for Votes" campaign, in which participating cannabis clubs offered free and discounted marijuana to people with an "I Voted" sticker. From San Jose Mercury News:
During rush hour at one San Jose polling place, only a dozen voters cast their ballots in the first hour and a half this morning. Barely three dozen at another. But precinct inspector Bart Connally, at his Rose Garden precinct with 1,400 registered voters, said "it's not many, but for a primary, it's not too bad."
The offer of free or discounted marijuana at some San Jose dispensaries for all customers showing their "I Voted" sticker or ballot stub didn't seem to bring a rush to the polling places by midmorning. By late morning Papadon's Collective on Lincoln Avenue in Willow Glen received just a few calls about the offer.
In a city of 415,000 registered voters — one of California's largest cities — only about 85,000 ballots were cast in a wide open race for mayor. And voter turnout county-wide is around 20 percent.
Also on the primary ballot: Gov. Jerry Brown. Santa Clara County turnout during the last gubernatorial primary peaked at 43 percent. In 2006, the last time there was an open race for San Jose mayor, it came in at 37 percent.
It's not all bad news for marijuana proponents: Some of the cannabis coalition's preferred candidates triumphed Tuesday, such as Santa Clara County Supervisor Dave Cortese, who will face San Jose Councilman Sam Liccardo in the November runoff for mayor of the city.
About 80 percent of votes cast in San Jose were expected to come via mail anyway, but the low turnout is not all that surprising; experts were predicting a 20-year-low turnout in Santa Clara County. And if free weed isn't enough to reverse that tide, then what is?