Randolph County group pushing for wet/dry vote files suit against county clerk

Randolph County group pushing for wet/dry vote files suit against county clerk
(Source: KAIT)

POCAHONTAS, AR (KAIT) - Voters will not be allowed to vote on an alcohol measure in November after Keep Revenue in Randolph County failed to get enough signatures to qualify for the ballot.

According to Randolph County Clerk Rhonda Blevins, the group only collected 90.5% of the 3,813 signatures needed.

"Our goal was to attempt to verify every name on the petition that we had on file," Blevins said in an email to Region 8 News. "Any voter not counted was due to a statutory qualification."

The rejection comes on the heels of hundreds of signatures being wrongly discarded.

In late July, Blevins office rejected hundreds of "bad signatures" because the signature on file didn't match the signature on the petition. That left Keep Revenue in Randolph County 483 signatures short of their goal.

Days later, Blevins office started going back through the "bad signatures," after they received guidance from the Secretary of State's Office explaining that signatures on the petition don't have to match what's on file.

Roughly 200 signatures were then added back to Keep Revenue in Randolph County's petition. They were also able to get nearly 200 new signatures for the petition as well, and many who had "incomplete data" on their initial petition signed it again so their name would count.

One hour after Blevins said the group was still 361 signatures short of their goal, Keep Revenue in Randolph County and two Randolph County residents filed a lawsuit in circuit court challenging the "rejection of valid signatures that the campaign believes were wrongly discarded."

Keep Revenue in Randolph County Chairperson Linda Bowlin said in a news release "more than 250 Randolph County voters had their valid signatures tossed simply because they appeared on a petition page with an out-of-county voter. The clerk rejected the signatures based on a law we believe, and a recent Arkansas Supreme Court ruling indicates, is unconstitutional."

Bowlin added that after new signatures were submitted, additional signatures, previously allowed on the petition, were thrown out "on grounds not previously disclosed to the committee."

"We will challenge these petitions as well as the other full pages of registered voters that were thrown out on technicalities and probable unconstitutional grounds," Bowlin said.

Michelle Counts, a Randolph County resident who signed the petition, said she expected her voice to be heard when she signed it.

"It's disappointing, and frankly frustrating, to learn that's not the case, that my valid signature was simply tossed aside," Counts said. "I definitely feel like my voice on this important issue has been taken away."

The last time voters in Randolph County voted on the wet/dry issue was back in the 1950's.

Copyright 2016 KAIT. All rights reserved.

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