Friday, July 18, 2014

Statewide alcohol sales vote needs 17,133 more signatures

Posted By on Fri, Jul 18, 2014 at 11:59 AM

David Couch, attorney for Let Arkansas Decide, which is seeking a statewide vote on a constitutional amendment to legalize retail alcohol sales in all 75 counties, said he learned from the Arkansas secretary of state's office that initial canvassing produced 61,000 signatures of registered voters.

The campaign needs 78,133 signatures to qualify for the November ballot, or 17,133 more.

The campaign turned in almost 85,000 signatures July 7, the product of paid canvassing that begin 30 days before. Several hundred were disqualified for facial failures and then checks for valid voters began.

The finding now means the campaign has 30 days to meet the 78,133 test. Canvassers have never stopped working on additional signatures.

About half the state is "dry," though nearly all counties have at least one private club outlet selling alcohol by the drink. The amendment would immediately allow on its effective date July 1, 2015 retailers to petition for beer and limited wine sales in grocery and convenience stores and also allow applications for retail liquor store permits, based on population.

Retailers are supporting the campaign, though financial contributors haven't yet been revealed in ethics filings.

Separate campaigns to call local option elections in Faulkner, Saline and Craighead counties are being funded principally by Walmart, which has contributed $1 million so far and Kum & Go, a convenience chain, which has contributed $50,000. No word yet on how the drives went in Saline and Craighead, where petitions have been submitted to county clerks. The Faulkner canvassing continues.

The secretary of state office is still in the process of reviewing the 64,000 signatures it said survived a facial review of a petition for an initiated act to increase the minimum wage. That measure needs 62,507 signatures of registered voters to make the ballot. At the alcohol campaign's failure rate of roughly 72 percent, it will need 16,000 more signatures to qualify. That canvassing is now in progress, too, a supporter told me. The minimum wage campaign has hoped for a higher rate of valid signatures because its canvassers went door-to-door for signatures, rather than relying heavily on heavily trafficked places such as Walmarts.

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