Crawford County ‘wet’ supporters miss mark, face Thursday deadline for 2018

by Aric Mitchell ([email protected]) 581 views 

Supporters of turning Crawford County from dry to wet will have to wait a little longer before they can vote on the issue, according to County Clerk Teresa Armer.

The Keep Dollars in Crawford County movement was only able to get 9,000 signatures approved and verified by the Clerk’s Office by the 5 p.m. deadline on Tuesday (Aug. 30).

Arkansas law requires collection of valid signatures from 38% of the county’s registered voters, meaning at least 12,110 valid signatures are needed to place the measure on the ballot. The group provided signatures to Armer on Aug. 10 and were given a letter dated Aug. 22 stating the effort had not reached the threshold of verifiable signatures as required by state law.

A representative from the group told Talk Business & Politics on Tuesday that there were 16,605 signatures submitted to the Clerk’s Office — a number Armer acknowledged in comments to Talk Business & Politics on Tuesday — and they would continue collecting signatures through the 10-day deadline Armer’s letter allowed. Thursday, Sept. 1, is now the cutoff for getting a petition approved for a special election or to have the item added to the November 2018 general election ballot, but the item will definitely not be included on the Nov. 8 ballot, Armer said. If Keep Dollars in Crawford County is unable to reach the required number of signatures by its new cutoff, supporters of the initiative will have to reset their efforts.

Should Keep Dollars in Crawford County submit more signatures by Thursday, Armer will have five days to review and determine if the measure can move forward.

Keep Dollars in Crawford County’s Facebook page administrator on Tuesday accused Armer of trying to “cover her ass” and divert blame for the group’s falling short of the signature threshold, stating she “failed to count the signatures in the time required by law.”

“She has more signatures than she can count today and will not count your name and will refuse to certify this. If you want your name to count you must call her and let her know not to be a pawn of Shamrock Liquors money,” noted Keep Dollars in Crawford County’s Facebook page.

Armer denied the claim and said the signatures were counted in time. She said more than 7,000 of those submitted were rejected because “they were not registered or were duplicates — people who’d signed twice — or were not registered at the time they signed the petition or they lived outside the jurisdiction.”

“The names were put through the system in plenty of time,” Armer said, adding as County Clerk she must act in accordance with election law and with the supervision of attorneys and “if it comes to a lawsuit as it has in other counties, when I sit down on that witness stand — and I will be on it — I’ll have the documentation. And they (Keep Dollars in Crawford County) have it, too.”

Two of the group’s leaders — Van Buren attorney Kevin Holmes and Crawford County Justice of the Peace David Rofkahr – did not return calls or emails from Talk Business & Politics on Tuesday, nor did the group opposing their efforts — Stay Dry, Stay Safe.

According to a 2014 report from the Institute for Economic Advancement at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, Crawford County lost an estimated $10.144 million in liquor sales to adjacent counties that year.

A later study conducted in April by the University of Arkansas Center for Business and Economic Research found Crawford County turning from dry to wet would have resulted in more than $15 million in sales in 2015 and generated an additional 2.4% in sales tax revenues for the county, totaling $272,754. On the city sales tax side, the number would have been higher at $285,742.

Using economic multipliers and inter-industry coefficients to estimate economic impact, the economic impact of allowing retail liquor sales in 2015 would have been $5.801 million with 76.3 jobs created totaling $2.335 million in labor income, the UA Business report stated. The full UA Business study is available at this link.

According to Arkansas’ Alcoholic Beverage Control division, Crawford County is one of 35 of the state’s 75 counties listed as “dry” — meaning no broad sales of alcohol, with a private club permit needed for liquor sales at restaurants — and is surrounded by wet (legal liquor sales) counties or significantly wet areas.

Washington, Madison, Franklin and Logan counties are wet, with Fort Smith in Sebastian County being wet. Other than Fort Smith, Sebastian County is dry.

The last time Crawford County voters voted on the wet/dry issue was 1942.