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Voter Turnout May Tip The Scales On Legal Pot Measure

Oregon's marijuana legalization measure looks as if it might pass, according to a new poll by OPB and Fox 12.

The poll looked at five measures headed to voters this election season.

Measure 91 allows adults in Oregon to grow, possess and sell marijuana under state regulation.

Fifty-two percent of likely voters said they'd vote for the idea. Forty-one percent said they'd vote against it.

Debra Klaviter lives in The Dalles and has run a Farmers Insurance Agency for 25 years. She says she'll be voting for the marijuana legalization measure because she says it should be an option for people in pain.

"I've seen people that have started to take care of their own health care, their own pain management, and how the system works for them. Oh my gracious, there's no question that it should be legalized," Klaviter said.

Some who oppose the measure say it would allow people to possess too much pot at one time, and in forms that might appeal to children.

The poll has a margin of error of 4.3 percent. About seven percent of respondents haven't decided how they'll vote on Measure 91. That means the measure's passage is still up for grabs.

Pollster John Horvick of Portland-based DHM research says turn-out will be key.

"For example, 18 to 34 year-olds, 70 percent plan to vote for Measure 91 for legalization. Sixty-eight percent of independents plan to. Now those are all groups who are the least likely to show-up come election day. So if the marijuana campaign is able to get those voters out, it looks like it could pass, it'll be close, a squeaker."

But if those voters don't send in their ballots, he says the measure could fail.

A different measure to legalize pot failed two years ago, 48 percent to 52.

Horvick says the importance of turn-out to Measure 91, holds true for Measure 92 as well.

Measure 92 requires food manufacturers and retailers to label genetically engineered foods. Forty-nine percent of respondents in the OPB/Fox 12 poll said they'd vote for it. Forty-four percent were opposed. Seven percent were undecided.

That's very close and Horvick says it's hard to tell which way it'll go because past experience suggests that the genetic engineering issue "is one that voters are moving on, their opinions are relatively in flux. Marijuana it seems to be that opinions are more set."

Daniel Martin retired from fire fighting in California and moved to Myrtle Point. He says he'll be voting against the genetic engineering food labeling measure.

"I think it should be settled in the free market. Not by government regulation," Martin says.

He says he hasn't seen any evidence to show genetically engineered food is harmful to humans. Those who support the measure say it will help consumers make informed decisions.

Another issue before voters, Measure 90,would create a nonpartisan primary for all candidates.

The top two would advance to the general election, regardless of party.

The OPB/Fox 12 poll found it is too close to call. Thirty-six percent of respondents said they'd vote for it. Thirty-eight percent said they wouldn't. But a substantial 26 percent have yet to decide.

Measure 86 is in a similar situation. It would allow the state to borrow money for a scholarship fund for Oregon students pursuing college or career training.

Thirty-five percent said they'd vote yes. Forty-one percent said no. But again a large swath of respondents, 25 percent, didn't know how they'd vote.

One measure that has little support at this point is Measure 88. It's a referendum on the state law that allows driver cards for Oregonians who can't prove they're in the country legally.

"Where we'd expect the base to be, among Democrats, I mean just 44 percent of Democrats plan to vote for it at this point. Eighty-three percent of Republicans will vote against it. Sixty percent of Independents. Sixty-seven percent of men. There's little constituency for it," Horvick says.

In the aggregate, only 31 percent of respondents said they'd vote for it. Sixty percent were opposed.

The poll was conducted last week and sampled more than 500 likely voters.

The state is scheduled to start sending out ballots for the election Wednesday.

Copyright 2014 Oregon Public Broadcasting