Supporters of an initiative to allow alcohol sales in Crawford County filed a lawsuit to have the measure placed on the Nov. 8 general election ballot.
After failing to meet an Aug. 30 deadline to have the measure placed on the November ballot, Keep Dollars in Crawford County is pursuing legal action, said representative Kevin Holmes.
While the group’s final deadline to submit petition signatures was Thursday, Sept. 1, state law requires ballot measures to be certified to the election commission 70 days prior to the election. That date was Tuesday, Aug. 30.
“We plan to file a lawsuit to seek relief from the circuit court so that the measure can go on the ballot in 2016,” Holmes said early Thursday morning.
Keep Dollars filed the lawsuit Thursday afternoon, according to the Crawford County Judge’s Office.
The lawsuit was filed against Armer, claiming she failed in her duties as clerk.
According to both Holmes and Crawford County Clerk Teresa Armer, Keep Dollars submitted its original set of petition signatures on Aug. 10. The clerks’ office had 10 days to verify signatures and notify the group if it had fallen short.
“The 10 days ran out during the weekend,” Armer said. “On that Monday, I did respond that they had met the 75 percent.”
To have the alcohol initiative placed on the local ballot, the petition must have signatures from 38 percent of Crawford County’s registered voters, which is 12,110 total signatures.
Armer’s office verified 9,288 signatures on the alcohol petition, while 7,316 were rejected, she said.
By meeting 75 percent of the total goal, they were given another 10 days from the date of notification to submit the additional needed signatures, with the deadline set for Sept. 1.
Keep Dollars received notice of the deficiency in signatures on Aug. 23, Holmes said - three days after time given for the clerk’s office to complete signature verification. Aug. 20 fell on the previous Saturday.
“In our opinion, there was a dereliction of duty in counting the signatures on time,” Holmes said. “She could have put that letter in the mail on the 20th.”
If the group had been notified earlier they could have made the petition deadline on Aug. 30, Holmes said.
Armer said all submitted signatures were counted within the time constraint and her actions have been according to the law.
“Everything that I have done I have gone through my attorneys … to make sure everything was done proper, by the law,” Armer said.
Additional signatures were submitted by the group on Thursday afternoon.
If Keep Dollars is able to meet the signature requirement, they would still have the option of requesting a special election, or having the measure put on the November 2018 ballot, Armer said.
Holmes said the group is aware of the options, but hopes the judge in their lawsuit - who he said is allowed by law to set the date of a special election - will allow the measure to go on the ballot this November.
If the lawsuit fails, Keep Dollars will look to have the measure on the ballot in 2018, Holmes said.