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Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Third time may be the charm for a wet/dry ballot issue

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Supporters of a Sharp County Wet/Dry vote joined Save Energy Reap Taxes members outside the Sharp County Courthouse July 13 before group founder Ruth Reynolds, and secretary Stu Friegy and Jerry Adams (front with petitions) turned in nearly 5,000 petitions, well in excess of the number needed to get the initiative placed on the Nov. 6 ballot. The clerk's office has 10 days to validate the signatures. Photo/Tammy Curtis [Order this photo]
After a five year battle to get a Wet/Dry initiative on the ballot, Sharp County residents may finally get to vote on the issue. Members of Save Energy Reap Taxes (SERT) turned in nearly 5,000 petitions on July 13 in the latest attempt to have the initiative on the November ballot. The amount of petitions is well in excess of the number required to have the wet/dry issue placed on the ballot.

Before taking the thousands of required signatures into the Sharp County Clerk's office, Ruth Reynolds, the initiatives organizer, explained that the issue is not really about making the county wet, as much as it is just to allow voters to decide.

Reynolds claimed making Sharp County wet will cut down on the amount of greenhouse gases emitted when residents drive out of town for alcohol purchases. SERT was formed after a 2007 Hardy meeting to reduce carbon emissions.

When SERT first started gathering petitions, there were 10,347 registered voters in the county. In June 2008, the number of registered voters increased to 11,494. By June of 2010, there were 12,194 registered voters in Sharp County.

The latest attempt makes the third time, the group has tried to get the issue on the ballot.

In 2008, Judge Phil Smith ruled against the initiative, preventing it from being placed on the ballot. Issues with some of the signatures on the petitions submitted was cited as the reason for the ruling, after Yota Shaw and Morris Street filed an injunction against the issue. People signing ballot iniatives must be registered voters. Because many of the notarized petitions were already signed when Reynolds brought them to be notarized, the judge declared them invalid.

SERT then filed an appeal to Smith's ruling, and his ruling was later upheld by the Arkansas Supreme  Court.

The decision sparked a firestorm of negative public comments in area newspapers regarding voters not being able to vote on the issue.

Reynolds and other members of SERT, including Stu Freigy and Jerry Adams, began a second attempt at gaining the required signatures for the initiative to be placed on the 2010 ballot.

The second attempt failed when the group missed the filing deadline. According to the SERT website, "The 2010 Secretary of State's Initiative and Referendum pamphlet still had the old filing deadlines."

The group outside the courthouse July 13 was large, as those who assisted in the signature collection held signs in support of the wet/dry issue.

With two small dollies, Reynolds and Freigy wheeled the documents into the Sharp County Clerk's office where Tonya Powell accepted them. The clerk's office has 10 days to validate the signatures before the initiative can be put on the Nov. 6 ballot.

Reynolds was a bit nervous as she took the fruits of her labor into the office.

"We wish to thank everyone who was willing to sign the petition that hopefully will get the issue on the November 6 ballot. There are now two issues. The first is, we need funds to fight any court battles that will have to be fought, due to almost certain lawsuits by the opposition. All donations are gratefully accepted. You can either give funds through our website using PayPal, or call Ruth Reynolds at 870 257-4596 or Stu Freigy at 870-966-4940."

"Second, if it does get on the ballot, we need everyone to get out and exercise their right to vote. If you are not already registered, you still have time. Don't lose the opportunity to vote just because you weren't registered. Keep in mind that if you haven't voted in several years, you probably are no longer registered." Reynolds said.

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