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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

She's not giving up

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Ruth Reynolds, President of Save Energy Reap Taxes, sits at the court house almost daily gathering petition signatures to allow Sharp County voters the oportunity to vote on whether they want a dry county or not. The next election will be November 2010. Photo/Amanda Powers
Not all have the same reasoning, but they share a common goal -- to give residents of Sharp County the opportunity to vote for whether they want a wet county.

Although she is retired, several people say that Ruth Reynolds, president for Save Energy Reap Taxes (SERT), works harder than those who are not retired. Reynolds dedicates much of her time to researching and educating city and county officials about renewable energy and other environmental issues.

In 2008, Reynolds headed the effort to collect enough petition signatures to allow Sharp County residents to vote for a wet county. She stated that if Sharp County became a wet county less people would travel to purchase alcohol, therefore reducing greenhouse emissions.

Several residents joined Reynolds in collecting signatures, and while not all of them were as interested in greenhouse emissions, they were all interested in a chance to vote on the issue.

After working relentlessly to collect signatures, the canvassers met the deadline and turned in their petitions with more than the required signatures. For a petition to be approved, it must contain the signatures of at least 38 percent of the county's registered voters.

After the county clerk checked each of the signatures to make sure they were in the system as a registered voter in Sharp County, it was determined that the required amount of signatures were collected. The clerk approved the petition. After the approval, county residents were given 10 days to contest the petition.

On the 10th day, two separate suits were filed against the petition questioning the legitimacy of the signatureS as well as the wording in the petition. The temporary injunction was placed on the issue going to ballot until a formal hearing was held.

The hearing was thorough, lasting three days. The judge determined after two days of deliberation that several of the signatures were invalid for various reasons. After striking those that were considered invalid, the petition fell short of the required signatures causing it to be stricken from the ballot.

Among other reasons, some of the signatures were stricken due to signs that different names were signed by the same person. This was the determination of an expert handwriting witness who gave her testimony. Also, because proper procedure was not followed in the notarizing of the petitions.

On the petition pages that were determined invalid due to notary, all of the signatures were stricken. In the cases of suspected forgery, only the names suspected were considered invalid.

After the judge ruled to remove the issue from the November 2008 ballot, SERT members hired Jeremy Lowery, an attorney out of Little Rock, to appeal the judge's decision. That too was denied making the removal of the issue from the 2008 ballot final.

But, to many who fought for the opportunity to vote on the issue, it wasn't just the removal of an issue, it was the denial of their rights as citizens to win or lose their battle in a fair vote.

One Sharp County man, called Rocky, sat through the hearing in support of the petitions. He stated several times during the hearing that he was a veteran and he fought for all Americans to be free and have the opportunity to a fair voting process. To him, he said, the removal of the issue from the ballots takes away the residents' rights.

"I wouldn't be angry if the issue was brought to a vote and lost, that would be fair," Rocky said. "But not allowing it to be voted on and giving the residents the choice is what makes me angry."

All of the canvassers and SERT members who were involved in the petition process were not only upset with themselves for making the mistakes they did, but also for the disappointment of those who signed the petitions.

But, none of them were discouraged enough to call it quits. Reynolds can be found, most days, sitting at the court house collecting signatures. She said several other canvassers have started as well.

Before preparing the petitions this time, they sought, thier appeal attorney Lowery's legal advice. Reynolds said she hopes they have covered all of their bases this time.

Reynolds invites all registered voters who support the petition to come to the courthouse and sign it. The next election will be in 2010, so there is time for those who are not registered to do so.

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