Public vote could be held in November
By Greg Bird
A new petition proposing county-wide alcohol sales in McCreary County has been officially filed – setting up a public vote this coming November.
Tony Hansford, one of the organizers behind the last alcohol referendum attempt in 2016, confirmed in a Facebook Post Monday that he had registered the petition in County Clerk Eric Haynes’ office, and will now seek signatures to validate the effort and officially call for a public vote.
“Today I have filed the petition to legalize the (sale) of alcohol in McCreary County,” Hansford’s post read. “We need the signatures of our registered voters in order to have this added to the ballet, for the November general election. There will be petitions posted at a variety of businesses throughout the county for you to sign. If you’d like to sign, and have not seen the petition posted, feel free to send me a private message, and I will see to it you’re able to get your signature on there. Feel free to share this post to get the word out to the citizens of our county. Thank you all for your support.”
The petition reads” “We the undersigned registered voters hereby petition for an election on November 5, 2019 on the following question: ‘Are you in favor of the sale of alcoholic beverages in McCreary County, Kentucky?’
Any petition must contain signatures of confirmed registered voters at least 25 percent of the total county voters in the last general election. The last local election, in November, saw 5,251 voters head to the polls – meaning a petition would need at least 1,313 valid names and signatures.
In 2016 3,914 voters turned out for the special election, with a 32-vote margin deciding the issue. In 2012, the time previous, more than 5,000 citizens voted, with similar results – a 47-vote difference. The margin in both elections was less than one percent, leading many to think a third election may make the difference.
The 2012 election was rife with controversy and rancor from both sides of the argument, but the following referendum was much more calm with less harsh words from proponents and opponents alike. In the end, 11 of McCreary County’s 18 precincts were in favor of legalizing alcohol sales, but the “no” votes in the other seven were enough to carry the day in favor of “dry.”
Laws have changed since the last alcohol vote was held in McCreary County.
In 2017 the Legislature amended sections of Kentucky Revised Statutes chapter 242 (the chapter that deals with local option elections) that made some significant changes to the ways alcohol elections are handled and could push any potential vote until November.
Now, according to KRS 242.020 in order for an alcohol petition for a county-wide election to be recognized, a copy of the petition containing the exact wording of the petition and date of the proposed election must be submitted to the County Clerk’s office before any signatures can be added. Clerk Eric Haynes confirmed this week that his office had received and verified Hansford’s petition.
The deadline for having the issue placed on the May Primary ballot had passed. Hansford, or any individual wishing to hold such an election, had the option to call for a special election – but would have had to pay for the cost of the election. The remaining option would be to hold the vote during the General Election this fall and have the issue on the same ballot as races for Governor, Attorney General and other state offices.
According to the Kentucky ABC Board, as of last May 48 of Kentucky’s 120 counties are “wet,” and only 15 (including McCreary) are completely “dry.” Other counties have cities, such as Burnside, Somerset and Williamsburg, where citizens have voted to go “wet.” Others, such as Wayne County have limited option sales as in wineries, distilleries or state parks.