The last call has been extended for proponents of countywide alcohol sales in Warren County, who are only about halfway to their goal of getting the question on the ballot.
According to an opinion rendered by Warren County Attorney Amy Milliken, the Warren Countians for Economic Growth group that has been promoting a petition drive to get a wet-dry vote on the Nov. 6 ballot now has until 12 noon on Aug. 24 to collect the needed 12,300 signatures. That figure represents 25 percent of the number of votes cast in the last general election, which is the requirement for getting the question on the ballot.
Warren County Clerk Lynette Yates revealed Wednesday that 5,858 verified signatures were turned in by 4 p.m. Tuesday, which was the deadline to get the wet-dry vote on the November general election ballot.
Milliken explained that the group pushing for the signatures has requested that a special election be held on Nov. 6 in conjunction with the general election.
“They have the ability to do that because they fall under the local option election statute,” said Milliken.
Milliken said that, under that statute, the county clerk must schedule a local option election not earlier than 60 days and not later than 150 days after the petition is filed with the clerk. The original petition to get on the general election ballot was filed Aug. 1 by Bobby Massey of Smiths Grove. Yates said the petition for a special local option election will be recorded as being filed on Aug. 24.
“It makes sense to have it (local option election) on Nov. 6, if they get the required number of signatures,” said Milliken. “Otherwise, you would have a special election with just that decision on the ballot.
“On Nov. 6, you’ll have county and city races and other issues on the ballot that will draw people in. I would like to hear from as many people as possible.”
So would those pushing for the signatures. Rural wedding and event venues such as the Elkins Grove venue that Massey is associated with have been actively pushing for signatures and have set up signature drives at more than two dozen locations around the county.
As Milliken has pointed out, those venues can now be found in violation by the state Alcoholic Beverage Control Board if alcohol is served at weddings or other events.
Warren County Judge-Executive Mike Buchanon said complaints about receptions and parties in Warren County have required ABC officials to take action and contact those venues that served or allowed others to serve free drinks to guests.
“These ABC enforcement contacts and warnings have caused an awareness of the prohibitive legal status and great concern to residents and businesses throughout our county,” Buchanon said. “A number of Warren County residents and business owners have taken on the challenge of getting the required signatures to get this wet/dry choice on the November ballot. I believe the voters should have the chance to choose.”
The extension to Aug. 24 makes it more likely that the question will get on the ballot, but one proponent of the measure still has doubts.
“It will definitely be helpful,” said Terry Jones, owner of the Plano Store, where more than 700 signatures have been collected. “But it still sounds like a tough task. We just need another big push. We need to promote this through social media and through all the places in town where people can sign the petition.
“I hope we can get it done. If not, we’ll try again in the future.”
Yates and Milliken indicated that any signatures collected and verified through Aug. 24 will be added to the 5,858 already collected.