Two inch-and-a-half-thick stacks of petitions in favor of putting the legalization of alcohol sales throughout Warren County on the November ballot were enough to impress Warren County Clerk Lynette Yates on Tuesday afternoon. But were they enough to put the measure on the ballot?
Some 12,300 signatures (25 percent of the number of votes cast in the last general election) were needed, and Yates pointed out Tuesday that the number collected won’t be official until at least late Wednesday. Her staff will have to verify the signatures, combing through the stacks to check for duplicates and ensuring that all signatures are from registered voters.
Still, the response to a drive that only started Aug. 1 – when Smiths Grove resident Bobby Massey filed a letter of intent – was enough to make Yates and others think the effort to get a wet/dry vote on the ballot isn’t dead.
Started by rural wedding and event venues and small country stores whose business is affected by neighboring “wet” counties and a wet city of Bowling Green, the drive picked up steam in the final days. A group called Warren Countians for Economic Growth was formed to push for signatures and set up more than 20 locations for people to sign.
But many of those in support of the effort weren’t ready to celebrate Tuesday.
“I’m not optimistic,” said Terry Jones, owner of the Plano Store where petitions were available. “It was such a short period of time.”
Jones said he collected around 700 signatures at his store, and he believes the response to having a wet-dry vote on the ballot was generally positive.
If this drive comes up short, Jones said supporters of the effort have told him they intend to keep trying to get the question on the ballot.
Another supporter who brought in a page of about 40 signatures just under Tuesday’s 4 p.m. deadline said legalizing alcohol sales and the serving of alcohol in areas of the county outside the Bowling Green city limits is important economically.
Event venues like the Elkins Grove venue that Massey is associated with are hurting because many surrounding counties have gone wet in recent months, Robin Amonett said.
“I believe that with some of the surrounding counties going wet, it does hurt our economic growth in Warren County,” Amonett said. “I don’t believe a lot of people realize that the county is dry. If nothing else, this will at least bring awareness to that fact.”
Amonett, who heard about the petition drive at a Bowling Green Area Chamber of Commerce event, even wonders if the county’s dry status could affect people serving alcohol in their homes.
“If I’m having a Super Bowl party at my house, am I legally allowed to offer my guests an alcoholic beverage?” she asked.
Warren County Attorney Amy Milliken pointed out in recent interviews that the letter of the law can affect those serving alcohol in a private residence. She doesn’t believe the effort to get the wet/dry vote on the ballot is dead.
Yates pointed out that a special election could be held. But, she said, “Under a law passed last year, special elections now have to be funded by the petitioners. That could be a very expensive venture.”
Milliken is looking at options other than a special election because she believes county residents are in favor of having a choice on the matter. She points out that a Daily News reader poll showed nearly 75 percent of respondents in favor of legal alcohol sales throughout Warren County.
“We’re researching every angle, because it’s clear to me that the people of Warren County want to get this on the ballot,” Milliken said. “I’m going to research it and see if there’s a way to get this on the ballot.”