Wet/dry push gathers enough signatures (Updated)

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 64 views 

BENTONVILLE— Voters will decide whether the retail sale of alcohol is allowed in Benton County when they cast their ballots in November.

Benton County Clerk Tena O'Brien and her staff have processed 54,150 signatures. Staff members accepted 41,460 of those signatures, nearly 300 more than what was needed to secure a ballot position, O'Brien said.

Keep Dollars in Benton County, the local group who organized a petition drive to get ballot access, turned over 56,000 signatures to the Benton County Clerk's office July 12. The clerk's office spent 9 days, including Saturday and Sunday counting the signatures.

O'Brien said Sunday she is happy the task was complete.

"This has been a long time coming and I think the people will be happy to get the opportunity to vote on it,” O’Brien said.

The general election will be held Nov. 6.

Marshall Ney, an attorney with Mitchell Williams Law in Rogers who is managing the effort for Keep Dollars in Benton County, said he was very pleased with the outcome Sunday.

"Given the amount of signatures we turned in, we appreciate the hard work of the County Clerk and her staff in validating these in such a timely manner. We also appreciate the diligence and professionalism of National Ballot Access, the firm we retained to collect signatures. Clearly they executed the signature-gathering process well and in the right way," Ney said.

The clerk's office will begin the process of certifying the signatures with the Arkansas Secretary of State's Office Monday morning, O'Brien said.

Anyone opposed to having the wet/dry issue on the ballot will have 10 days from Monday to challenge it in circuit court.

Ney said Keep Dollars in Benton County will change its focus from gathering signatures to reminding voters to cast their ballot in the general election.

"Assuming this process continues to move forward and the wet/dry issue appears on the ballot in November, our main priority between now and election day is to encourage all Benton County residents to vote," Ney said. "Based on our successful signature campaign, we are confident that Benton County will be voted wet if there is a strong turnout on election day."

The wet/dry issue was last presented to Benton County voters in 1944, Ney said, noting that the population of Benton County in 1944 was approximately 38,000. The population now stands at 220,000.

In order to place the wet/dry issue on the November ballot, by state law, 38%, or 41,171 of registered voters in Benton County must sign a legal petition confirming their desire to bring the matter to a vote.

Keep Dollars in Benton County hired Lawrenceville, Ga.-based National Ballot Access (NBA) to gather the signatures.