A petition for an initiative to allow alcohol sales in Crawford County has failed to receive the qualifying number of signatures to place the measure on the election ballot, according to the Crawford County Clerk’s Office.
After making the final tally of the petition signatures, Crawford County Clerk Teresa Armer said the petition fell short of the required 12,110 signatures.
Accepted were 10,584 signatures in total, leaving the petition short 1,526 signatures, Armer said. A total of 19,399 signatures were submitted, with 8,815 being denied by the clerk’s office, she said.
“The law requires you to meet 38 percent of registered voters,” Armer said. “They did not meet that threshold.”
Keep Dollars in Crawford County, the group that has been working to place the alcohol initiative on the Nov. 8 general election ballot, also fell short of the Aug. 30 deadline for an issue to be certified to the election commission, which is set for 70 days prior to the election. They submitted their final signatures on Sept. 1.
Keep Dollars filed a lawsuit Sept. 1 against Armer, alleging she failed to count submitted signatures and alert the organization of deficiency in a timely manner, and that she threw out qualifying signatures.
Armer said the claims in the lawsuit are untrue.
Armer addressed one portion of the lawsuit, which claims Armer “refused to count the signatures of registered Crawford County voters because she believed that said pages contained the signatures of petitioners from more than one county and thus could not be counted … ”
Though some clerk’s offices would throw out full pages with signatures from outside counties, she only threw out individual signatures and counted those on the page from voters registered in Crawford County, she said.
“The ones that were rejected, mostly they were duplicates or they were not registered to vote, or the date of the signed petitioners was prior to the date we were notified of the canvasser, which is against the law, so we had to reject those pages,” Armer said.
According to state law, the abiding county clerk must be notified of a new petition canvasser prior to that canvasser collecting signatures.
Keep Dollars’ lawsuit also challenges the constitutionality of the state law prohibiting clerks from counting signatures on a petition part that contains signatures from more than one county.
Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge has filed a motion to intervene on behalf of the state regarding the challenge to state law. The motion was granted by Circuit Court Judge Mike Medlock.
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.
While the 10 days ended on Saturday, Aug. 20, Armer notified the group the following Monday that they had collected 75 percent of their goal and had an additional 10 days to collect signatures with a deadline of Sept. 1.
Unfortunately for Keep Dollars, the election commission deadline as determined by state law fell two days before the group’s extended deadline.
In a previous interview, Kevin Holmes, a representative of Keep Dollars in Crawford County, said Armer should have notified the group of its original deficiency more quickly.
“In our opinion, there was a dereliction of duty in counting the signatures on time,” Holmes said in that interview. “She could have put that letter in the mail on the 20th.”