A movement to bring alcohol sales to the ballot in Polk county has been postponed.
According to social media post by the Committee for Growth in Polk County, the decision to halt the petition drive was made public July 16.
“We were ready in March this year with a proven plan and volunteers to begin collecting signatures,” said Rick Chrisman, treasurer for the committee. “COVID just made us pull back we couldn’t ask our volunteers to go door-to-door.”
Because the petition can only be placed on the ballot during major and mid-term elections, the committee thought best to wait until 2022.
“The COVID19 virus caused the loss of three months of canvassing,” he continued. “We made a very intense effort through publicized signing sites.”
However, Chrisman said collecting signatures without being able to go door-to-door was ineffective.
“It became obvious this method alone would not be successful, given the time left to get the approx. 4500+ signatures needed,” Chrisman said.
With hopes to renew petition efforts in 2021, Chrisman said he and John Vacca hope to find additional volunteer support and elect officers for the committee.
“We are willing to advise and financially support the continued operations of the committee,” Chrisman said, noting that beginning canvassing in early 2021 will allow for additional time to gather signatures.
Though the committee was able to gather more than 1,000 signatures, approximately 3,000 additional signatures were needed to meet requirements.
“With only three weeks left to get those signatures… it just wasn’t going to happen,” Chrisman said.
According to state law, 38 percent registered voters in the county must sign the petition, which amounts to 4,500 in Polk County.
“With many of our residents living outside city limits, door- to-door canvasing is critical to meeting the demand the state places on alcohol sales petitions – where other types of ballot questions only need 15 percent, this requires a significantly larger campaign.”
The decision to postpone the petition comes after a stalled attempt in 2018 and 2016, when the committee faced organizational obstacles.
Chrisman said the Committee for Growth in Polk County has been adhering to stipulations in order to be sure once the signatures are collected, the paper work is in order.
“For 37 months we have been filling out financial reports, along with crossing our T’s and dotting our I’s so the county clerk and state approve of the petition before we begin circulating it,” Chrisman said.
Though the petition movement has been postponed, Chrisman said he believes the required number of signatures could have been collected had it not been for COVID19 related issues.
In 2014 Polk county voters said they were in favor of state-wide alcohol sales, with 50.85 percent for and 49.15 against, though the measure failed to gain the votes needed in the state-wide general election.
At that time, 38 counties, or 51 percent, were wet. In November 2018 voters in Little River and Arkansas counties voted in favor of legalization, which brought the total of wet counties to 40 out of 75, or 53 percent.
This March 2019 map of alcohol sales legalization is courtesy of University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, Community and Economic Development.