UPDATE: Randolph County wet/dry bench trial to continue next week

Randolph County wet/dry bench trial to continue next week
(Source: KAIT)
(Source: KAIT)

RANDOLPH COUNTY, AR (KAIT) - UPDATE 4:15 p.m. Aug. 26: Count has ended for the week in the Randolph County wet/dry bench trial.

According to Region 8 News' Japhanie Gray, Judge Phil Smith said he will take the weekend to review both sides of the case. He will also take the weekend to review different legislative statutes pertaining to the wet/dry petition process.

Lawyers were told to have their finalized documents emailed to Judge Smith by noon on Monday.

Judge Smith said this is a complicated case and is pleased to know that both sides followed the law.

The judge hopes to have a final verdict no later than Tuesday.

UPDATE Aug. 26: Linda Bowlin, chair of the Keep Revenue in Randolph County committee, took the stand and testified Friday morning.

She told the court they received several rejected documents from County Clerk Rhonda Blevins with "no clear explanations."

Bowlin added the rejection letters came at the "very last minute," allowing them no time to make corrections.

Following a short recess, Bowlin said she notarized some petitions; but, left it to the canvassing company to thoroughly analyze them.

Defense attorneys, according to a Region 8 News reporter in the courtroom, challenged Bowlin by saying she should have checked over the canvassing company's work to "prevent problems."

They also questioned the criminal background of a worker who made errors with the canvassing company.

Bowlin said she had "no knowledge" of the canvassers' backgrounds.

After further questioning, Judge Phil Smith called a recess. Court will resume at 1 p.m.

UPDATE Aug. 25: Day two of the trial will go into day three as Circuit Court Judge Phil Smith still hasn't come to a verdict on putting the wet/dry issue on the November ballot.

During Thursday's session, several individuals were called to testify including those who had their signatures thrown out.

One person said her signature was thrown out because someone else who wasn't a registered voter in Randolph County signed the same name.

It all boiled down to the validity of certain addresses of people who do not live in Randolph County but signed and had their signatures thrown out as well.

The company who canvased the petition process was also questioned on the protocols they go by when notarizing petition documents.

During the process, one of the notarizers made a mistake by putting the wrong dates on some documents and even though she corrected those mistakes, Defense attorneys questioned the credibility of the company.

In the end, Judge Smith dismissed the court for recess but the case will resume Friday morning at 9.

He said he expects to have an answer by the end of the day.


The bench trial to decide the fate of the wet/dry issue in Randolph County continues Thursday.

County Clerk Rhonda Blevins took the stand Wednesday and was examined and cross-examined about the process her office took in certifying petitions for the local-option ballot.

The group Keep Revenue in Randolph County and two Randolph County residents filed suit against Blevins earlier this month, calling into question the constitutionality of petitions thrown out by her office.

Court reconvenes Thursday morning at 9 a.m.

Keep Revenue in Randolph County is asking Judge Phil Smith to recount the petitions, as they believe enough valid ones were submitted to Blevins' office to get the issue on the November ballot.

Region 8 News reached out to the lawyer for Keep Revenue in Randolph County but did not hear back from him.

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