Trial set Wednesday for Randolph County wet petition

POCAHONTAS, Ark. – A bench trial will begin Wednesday morning at 9 a.m. between the pro-wet Randolph County group and County Clerk Rhonda Blevins.

The trial comes after Blevins rejected the petition efforts from Keep Revenue in Randolph County. The group submitted thousands of signatures to reach the threshold giving voters a choice in November. However, the group chairman Linda Bowlin faced difficulties along the way from Blevins and her office, she has told NEA Report.

Blevins’ office mistakenly rejected more than 200 registered voters for “bad signature” reasons. However, photographic proof shows the questionable standard used to reject names from the petition.

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Despite being told they were 483 signatures short on July 28, Bowlin’s group continued their efforts until August 7, submitting over 100 pages of signatures to be added.

Blevins announced shortly after the group still needed 361 signatures and rejected the measure from being voted on in the November election.

The lawsuit is not only calling into question the standard of Blevins and her office, but is bringing up the issue of whole pages of signatures being thrown out because of one bad name. Many registered voters’ names were never even looked at due to one single mistake on the pages, by Blevins’ own admission.

Even though this practice has been deemed unconstitutional in other settings, alcohol petitioning falls under different legal standards. Just to get a vote, the petition must be signed by 38 percent of registered voters in the county. According to Bowlin, less will vote in the election for county judge than this number.

The wet group is asking Third Judicial Circuit Judge Phil Smith to review the petition and determine if enough signatures were collected for the November 8 election. If so, the suit asks the judge to command Blevins to certify the petition.

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