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Thursday, May 5, 2016

Sharp County wet/dry issue to be on November ballot

Thursday, August 9, 2012

For the first time in years, Sharp County voters will get the chance to decide whether alcohol sales should be allowed -- something that hasn't been a reality in nearly 70 years.

On Aug. 2, the Sharp County Clerk's office reported there had been no opposition filed to the Wet/Dry Initiative that was submitted July 13, with 4,989 signatures of Sharp County voters expressing support for a Nov. 6 wet-dry vote. The number was in excess of the 4,100 required to get the issue on the ballot.

After receiving the petitions, the clerk's office had to certify the signatures, a process that was completed July 23. Estes said anyone opposing the initiative had ten days, from the day of certification, to file any opposition. None was filed by the Aug. 2 deadline.

Environmentalist Ruth Reynolds and the Sharp County nonprofit organization Save Energy Reap Taxes (SERT) have seen more than their share of disappointment during a five year effort to get the wet-dry issue on the ballot. The announcement satisified all the groups working to collect signatures.

SERT began after a Hardy meeting to establish a strategy to reduce carbon emissions. Reynolds, who says she doesn't drink, has twice been let down, after collecting signatures to put the issue on the ballot. In 2008, Judge Phil Smith declared some of the petitions invalid. In 2010, after again collecting signatures, SERT inadvertently missed the filing date, when it was changed without anyone knowing.

Reynolds explained drives to Thayer and other areas for alcohol purchases pose environmental issues and, by making Sharp County wet, emissions can be reduced, down helping the environment.

As Sharp County advocates know, it is difficult to get a wet-dry issue on the ballot. Most initiatives require only 15 percent of registered voters who voted in the most recent election. The current law, sponsored in 1993 by former state senator Lu Hardin of Russellville, requires 38 percent of registered voters in the county to sign the petition, and the signatures must be notarized.

Because of past problems, SERT was determined to obtain well over the required number of signatures, and its works paid off.

Many Sharp County voters were upset when the issue failed to make the ballot in 2008, citing the importance of additional revenue, and the importance of allowing the voter's to decide such issues.

Each side of the wet-dry issue has valid pros and cons, but most agree, the right of the voter to decide issues is the most basic right of voters in a democracy.

The next step will be for voters on both sides of the issue to organize voters to support their positions at the polls this fall.

Jerry Adams, a spokesman for SERT, explained that, although the wet-dry vote will be on the ballot, residents who wish to see the county become wet must also vote.

He encouraged anyone who is not registered, or hasn't voted in several years to make sure they are registered and go out and vote.

It is the only way the issue will pass. Adams said the organization still needs funding for advertising and promotion of the initiative.

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