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Alcohol vote not happening

McCreary County Judge Executive Doug Stephens rescinded an order calling for a September 15 Special Election after not enough valid signatures were found to be on the petition turned in earlier this month.

When the petition was first turned in to County Clerk Eric Haynes, Judge Stephens issued an order calling for the election as a tentative measure pending the verification of the signatures on the petition.

Due to election laws, the special election would have had to be held between 60 and 90 days of the filing. But the election would have also have to been held at least 30 days prior to the General Election this November, putting a time crunch on officials to prepare for the vote.

To succeed, at least 1,303 registered McCreary County voters needed to have signed the petition, 25 percent of the total votes cast in the county during the previous General Election. (According to the unofficial results on the Kentucky Secretary of State website 5,213 ballots were cast last November. Haynes’ office staff calculated 1,320 required signatures based on official vote tallies.)

After the petition was turned in, Haynes’ staff began the task of going through each individual signee, and verifying their status of being a registered voter.

They tallied 2,126 names on the ballots to begin, before eliminating all duplicate signees, removing 278 in total (Those with duplicate signings only had the extra names removed, not the first.)

About 10 were disqualified for not having an address listed, or other missing information on the petition. By law, a date of signing, name, address and date of birth are required on the petition.

The majority of the eliminated signatures from that point on were disqualified for not being a registered voter in McCreary County. Several from out of the county had signed, as well as non-registered voters.

Haynes said there were some issues where his staff tried to read signatures or other information on the petition, but they erred on the side of voter intent and left those intact if enough information was present to signify their intent to sign the petition.

Petitioner Brian Hill met with County Clerk Eric Haynes and his staff Tuesday morning to go over the list and the steps taken in the verification process.

Hill asked several question regarding the intent of some of the disqualified names, but left stating he was satisfied the Clerk’s office followed all applicable laws in verifying the signatures.

Haynes stated it is the function of his office to verify the petitions, and has no stake in any possible outcome.

Questions remain about the possibility of future petitions to allow alcohol sales in McCreary County.

Hill stated he was aware of a second individual planning to launch another petition in the near future, and questioned the number of required signatures.

The main question was if a petition was started today, and turned in to the Clerk’s office following the General Election on November 3, would they need over 1,300 signatures again, or would the requirement be lower due to the election.

The November election is expected to have a low voter turnout due to the lack of local offices on the ballot. A small turnout would reduce the required number of valid signatures, making it easier for supporters of potential alcohol sales to get a special election called.

Haynes said he would research the question to get a definitive answer.

The last countywide alcohol vote was held on August 28, 2012. State law requires at least three years between similar referendums.

“No” votes outpaced “yes” by one percent of the total, keeping the county dry by a scant 47 votes in that election.

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