A group of about 40 people has been busy since April trying to collect valid signatures to put one of Clark County’s most talked-about issues on the November 2010 ballot.

A group of about 40 people has been busy since April trying to collect valid signatures to put one of Clark County’s most talked-about issues on the November 2010 ballot.
Vote for Growth led an effort in 2008 to put the question of whether alcohol sales should be allowed in the county, but after the group’s opposition found an error in their collecting of the sufficient number of signatures, the Arkansas Supreme Court ruled that some signatures were not valid. This decision was handed down days before the general election, and the ballots already cast were void.
This year, the group’s board feels confident the process will not be challenged. After the election, the group reorganized with a new attorney, Elaine Kneebone, and created a formal board: Dr. Tim Kauffman, president; Tom Barito, vice president; Judy Hannah, secretary; and Ronny Rodgers, treasurer.
Kauffman said in an interview Wednesday that the group’s main goal is not allowing alcohol sales but allowing the matter to be voted on once and for all.
“People think it’s a big political issue,” Kauffman said. “We’re not for or against it one way or another.” Several people who are against going “wet” have signed the petition because they want the issue on a ballot so the issue can be resolved.
Last year, petitioners set up voter registration tables alongside petition tables. Unregistered voters who wanted to sign the petition could register to vote, then sign. But those signatures were not legally valid until their voter registration was certified with the county clerk. Several signatures were thrown out since they signed the petition on the same day they signed a voter registration form. If one signature was found to be illegal, the entire petition of 19 signatures was discarded.
Now things are different in the signature-gathering process. Vote for Growth does not help people in registering to vote. Whereas the 2008 petitions had 19 signature slots, there are now only five slots for signatures. If one signature is challenged or thrown out, only five signatures are voided rather than 19.
A photo ID is required to sign a petition now. At a designated blue tent area, those interested in signing the petition are asked to provide their identification, which is matched with a list of registered voters. If the name is not on the list, the petition signer is asked to come back after registering to vote. If that person returns after being registered and has a voter registration card, then he or she can sign a single-person petition.
Last year, anyone could volunteer to be a petitioner. Now the group has six trained volunteers who can train others who are interested in being involved. The volunteers who are trained to gather signatures are required to sign a waiver stating they are willing to go to court if needed.
These “restrictive” changes make it harder to collect signatures, Kauffman said, but he said he is confident that, if enough signatures are gathered, there will be no room for anyone to find a mistake. “We’re 100 percent sure of the people signing, and are very comfortable with the signatures.”
All signatures that were gathered last year are invalid, so those who signed last year must sign again if they want the measure to go to a ballot. Since April, the group has collected about 1,500 signatures — about one-third of the number required to put the measure on a ballot. Today there are 12,042 registered voters in Clark County. The group must collect 38 percent of the number of registered voters. On June 1, 2010, the county clerk will verify how many registered voters there are in the county with the secretary of state’s office. After this is done the group will have its official number to reach. But since the number of registered voters fluctuates, the number of signatures the group needs to collect is a total of about 4,600. The deadline for collecting signatures is next August.
Del Boyette, an economic developer hired by the Economic Development Corp. of Clark County, offered a strategic blueprint last month for the EDCCC to follow. One issue he addressed in the blueprint’s executive summary was alcohol sales. He wrote that, in order for the county to strive economically in the 21st century, alcohol sales are needed.
Boyette, Kauffman said, was “blunt” in saying the county should be wet. “We’re not asking for that. We don’t care if people are for or against the issue in Clark County, just give people the chance to vote.”
While the Clark County Strategic Plan notes that the issue should be addressed, there is no action step in the Plan to organize an effort. It is spelled out in the Plan that it is “not the appropriate venue from which to address the wet-dry issue. The CCSP takes no position on the ... issue, but encourages citizens to establish an organized process that will bring this matter to a resolution.”
If enough signatures are gathered and citizens vote in favor of going wet, there will be a maximum of five package stores, which sell beer, wine and liquor, in the county.
Vote for Growth does not endorse legalizing alcohol sales, but does offer ideas on what they feel are benefits of going wet, according to Kauffman.
• Tax Sales would stay in the county.
• There would be a potential for industries and restaurants to locate here. “There is no guarantee, but it is a drawing card,” Kauffman said. He also noted that simply allowing alcohol sales would not create a drastic change in growth or quality of life.
• Those who drink would not have to drive to another county to get beer, wine or liquor, or drive to another city to have a drink with their dinner.
The Arkadelphia and Caddo Valley exits would be a good stopping point between Little Rock and Texarkana, and would, if wet, be the only place between the two cities that sell alcohol, Kauffman said.
An unorganized group of petitioners set out in 2006 to collect signatures, but did not collect enough. “I think each time (an effort) has happened, there has been a little less resistance,” Kauffman said. “More have accepted that it’s OK to sign a petition now.” There are also some local businesses that allow the group to post its schedule or information.
Kauffman said the group meets where there is traffic. On most weekends, petitioners gather under their blue tent in a parking lot near Walmart. The group also plans to be at that location during Arkadelphia High School home football games, and at Henderson State’s tailgate parties before football games. They will also be present at the Clark County Fair in September. The group plans to be available at rural locations throughout the county.
The group meets the third Tuesday of each month in the community center of Ouachita Village Apartments on Cypress Road. The public is welcome to attend.
To see Vote for Growth’s tent schedule or for more information about the group, visit www.letthepeoplevote.com.