A local group working to allow Crawford County residents to vote on the sale of alcoholic beverages in the county will submit its petition documents today.
Keep Dollars in Crawford County, a campaign committee looking to place the alcohol option measure on the November ballot, must submit petition documents by the end of the work day today, said Crawford County Clerk Teresa Armer.
To place the alcohol option measure on the local ballot, the petition must have signatures from 38 percent of Crawford County’s registered voters, which is 12,110 total signatures.
This number was certified by the Secretary of State on June 1, Armer said.
Armer’s office will have 10 days to confirm the petition signatures, she said.
If Keep Dollars in Crawford County has at least 75 percent of the needed signatures, they will be granted an additional 10 days to collect any needed signatures, Armer said. The clerk’s office then has five days to confirm the new signatures, she said.
To reach 75 percent of the final goal, the petitioners must submit 9,083 confirmed signatures on Aug. 10.
Shayne McKinney, a member of the Keep Dollars in Crawford County committee, said Monday that the group planned to submit its petition on time and expected to reach the 75 percent requirement.
McKinney expected the group to have collected close to 20,000 signatures by the deadline, he said.
“Our estimation is we’ll need a couple thousand more signatures to finish this up,” McKinney said. “We’ll continue getting signatures during the validation process, just to make sure. We don’t want to leave this to chance.”
According the Arkansas Secretary of State’s Office, there are a number of things that could cause a signature to be considered invalid.
Those include a person signing who was not a registered voter at the time; illegible handwriting; the signature is illegible and is not accompanied by any other personally identifying information; there is no signature or verification of a mark; the signature is a forgery; and corresponding identifying information was written by a person other than the petitioner, except in circumstances of disability.
McKinney said collecting signatures for the petition has been a “massive undertaking” and the signature requirement for alcohol issues is an unfair burden.
“Literally any other law petition requires 10 percent of people that voted in the last election. Alcohol is the only issue that requires 38 percent of the registered electorate. That more than even voted in the last election,” McKinney said. “We would have been done in February had it been any other law.”
Armer said different issues have different ballot and petition requirements, but she was unable to comment on the extent of those requirements.
The alcohol measure is the first ballot issue for Crawford County for which the clerk’s office has been required to confirm petition signatures that Armer is aware of, she said.
According to a report by the Public Policy Center of the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture Research and Extension, Arkansas has a long history of laws regarding alcohol.
Alcohol was legal throughout the state after the 1933 repeal of a U.S. Constitutional Amendment banning alcohol sales, the report states. In 1935, legislators passed a state law establishing rules for local elections on alcohol sales.
At least 35 percent of a county’s registered voters had to sign a petition in order to have a local election on alcohol sales, the report states.
Then, in a 1942 statewide election, voters changed the signature requirement for alcohol petitions to 15 percent.
“This relaxed requirement allowed numerous ‘wet’ communities to vote themselves ‘dry,’” the report states.
In 1985, legislators increased the signature requirement percentage to 30 percent, and again to 38 percent in 1993, making it more difficult for counties to change their status, according to the report.
In a previous interview with the Press Argus-Courier, Kevin Holmes, spokesperson and secretary of the Keep Dollars in Crawford County committee, said the last time a local option measure was on the ballot in Crawford County was 1942.
According to Arkansas’ Alcoholic Beverage Control division, Crawford County is one of 35 of the state’s 75 counties listed as “dry” – meaning no broad sales of alcohol, with a private club permit needed for liquor sales at restaurants.
Keep Dollars in Crawford County is marketing the ballot measure as a boost to the local economy if passed.
The Institute for Economic Advancement at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock noted in a summer 2014 report that Crawford County loses an estimated $10.144 million a year to liquor sales in adjacent counties.