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POCAHONTAS, Ark. – Linda Bowlin hopes the third time is the charm.
On Monday, for the third time, signatures will be turned in to the Randolph County Clerk’s Office with hopes of putting the question of alcohol sales on the November ballot. Bowlin, the chairperson for the Let Randolph County Vote group, told NEA Report at least 4,170 signatures have been collected. Using only local canvassers, the group has collected 300 more than were needed to hopefully prevent the Clerk from dismissing the petition, as we have covered before.
“We expect to turn in well over the required number of petitions and we have put each petition through a rigorous internal verification process to check them for accuracy,” Bowlin told NEA Report on Friday.
LRCV plans to turn in signatures at 11 AM Monday morning, July 30. The “cushion” of 300 signatures could be padded even more until then. Bowlin said a rigorous internal verification process has been conducted to verify the validity and accuracy of the petitions.
Two years ago, a petition was rejected by Randolph County Clerk Rhonda Blevins. The process was mired in controversy with some signatures which were rejected appearing to be valid. Lawsuits were filed but the group seeking to have an up or down vote did not prevail.
This year, they hope to have different results.
“We are optimistic that our hard work will pay off and that our petitions will be certified for the November ballot,” Bowlin said.
Arkansas law states 38-percent of registered voters in a county must sign the petition to allow for a wet/dry vote. In 2016, about 6,000 signatures were collected. Blevins’ office certified only 3,452, making it unsuccessful. By comparison, only about 5,000 voters in Randolph County even cast ballots in 2016.
The wet/dry vote has been constantly opposed by outside liquor stores adjacent to the county. A number of area liquor stores were listed as donors to the opposition group, called “Keep Randolph County Safe.” The “safe” group also exists contrary to statistical fact, which is that wet counties have less drunk drivers than dry ones. Dry counties also have almost double the amount of meth usage as wet counties or even “moist” counties. See this article from the Washington Post for more.