A Saline County circuit judge today removed a local option alcohol sales question
from the ballot in Saline County.
A petition drive had been certified as sufficient for the election, but it was challenged in a legal action filed by a Friday firm lawyer who's represented retail liquor dealers in wet counties anxious to prevent the spread of competition to currently dry counties such as Saline. Walmart, primarily, with assistance from Kum and Go, underwrote the petition drive in Saline County as well as unsuccessful efforts in Faulkner and Craighead counties.
The Saline lawsuit argued the local option measure
was defective for lack of an enabling clause and for flaws in the signature, notary and canvassing processes.
A statewide vote on a constitutional amendment to allow alcohol sales statewide has been certified for the state ballot, but a challenge of that amendment is likely from similarly financed sources by the same lawyer, Elzabeth Robben Murray.
Judge Grisham Phillips
ruled from the bench today. His decision covered a number of issues, but, among others, he disqualified 159 signatures, which left the petitioners 86 short of the number necessary to qualify for the ballot. The judge ordered that the issue was not certified, but he stayed the ruling and allowed ballots to be printed including the issue in expectation the defendants will seek an appeal to the Arkansas Supreme Court. If the court overturns Phillips, the issue will be on the ballot and votes could count. If the Supreme Court upholds Phillips, votes will not count.
Here's one potential point of contention on appeal:
The Saline county clerk stopped counting signatures after they numbered 73 in excess of those needed. But after the lawsuit was filed, the court ordered the clerk to count the remaining pages and there were many more valid signatures. But, according to an advocate of the measure, the judge in his ruling today didn't consider signatures validated after certification, only those counted in the ceritifcation.
Elizabeth Murray of the Friday firm represented the plaintiffs. John Baker of the Mitchell firm represented the defendants