A rough math exercise shows that the effort to place a wet-dry vote on the Benton County ballot in November cost around $6.50 per signature.
Keep Dollars in Benton County said Thursday (July 12) that it has submitted more than 56,000 signatures for the purpose of changing the liquor law in Benton County to allow retail sale of alcohol. The group had until Aug. 8 to submit signatures.
In order to place the wet/dry issue on the November ballot, by state law, 38% of registered voters in Benton County must sign a legal petition confirming their desire to bring the matter to a vote. Marshall Ney, attorney for Keep Dollars in Benton County, said 41,171 certified signatures are required.
Keep Dollars in Benton County hired Lawrenceville, Ga.-based National Ballot Access (NBA) to gather signatures needed to place the question on the November ballot. Signatures are submitted to the Benton County Clerk for verification.
Citing figures from an economic impact report from the Sam M. Walton College of Business at the University of Arkansas, Ney has said there is a “compelling economic issue” behind the push for a law change. Using economic multipliers and inter-industry coefficients to estimate economic impact, the economic impact of allowing retail sales of alcohol was estimated at $33,044,913 for the year 2010.
Other stats supplied by the Walton College include:
• If Benton County had been a wet county in 2010, residents would have spent an estimated $44,724,993 in beer purchases and $33,273,288 in liquor and wine sales.
• In 2010, those retail sales of alcohol would have generated an additional 2.4 percent in sales tax revenues for Benton County or $779,983.
• Total city sales taxes collected from the sales of retail liquor in Benton County would have amounted to $1,402,076 in 2010, with the majority occurring in Rogers and Bentonville.
“Voters in Benton County haven’t had the opportunity to vote on whether or not the county should be ‘wet’ or ‘dry’ since the mid 1940s when voters were last heard on this issue,” Ney, also an attorney with the Mitchell Williams Law Firm in Rogers, said in the statement. “Since that time, when the population of Benton County was approximately 38,000, much has changed in the county with today’s population at 220,000 and growing, according to the 2010 U.S. Census.”
No organized opposition to the ballot effort has yet to emerge.
The most recent financial report — submitted June 14 — for Keep Dollars in Benton County shows the group has spent $364,957.90 between February and May 31. Tom and Steuart Walton, grandsons of Wal-Mart Stores founders Helen and Sam Walton, have each contributed $165,000 to the signature-gathering effort. A majority of the money raised has been spent with NBA.
Ney said an “internal review” gives the group confidence that they have enough valid signatures to make the ballot.
"We can’t thank our petitioners and our volunteers enough," Ney said. They have worked tirelessly, especially in these last couple of months, to ensure that we have enough signatures to get this important issue on the ballot. We are hopeful that Benton County residents will finally have the opportunity to have their say on an issue that affects the economic growth of our community."
The group first announced its effort on Feb. 13.