Alcohol sales in the hands of voters, but on which ballot?

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By Matt Kelton
Pioneer Sentinel

An effort to allow the sale of alcohol in Henrietta is now in the hands of voters, but on what ballot is still unknown.

Working feverishly to guarantee the issued was placed on the Nov. 6 general election ballot, Justin O’Malley turned in a petition containing 386 valid signatures on July 10, the day of the deadline.

To place the item on a ballot, O’Malley needed the signatures of 303 Henrietta residents who are registered voters.

The city is working with the Clay County Clerk’s Office to determine if the issue will be placed on the county’s general election ballot alongside county, state and national elections, or if a separate, special election will be held at city hall.

Both options could be problematic, said County Clerk Sasha Kelton, who serves as the county’s elections administrator.

Clay County has two tabulating machines, each able to count the results of eight different ballot styles. The machines are used together to tabulate results from the 16 polling places in the county. Because the election for alcohol sales is for Henrietta only, 20 ballot styles would be required.

In a related issue, many of the voters who cast ballots at one of the four polling places located in Henrietta live within the city limits. Making sure everyone gets the correct ballot would also be a concern.

City Administrator Kelley Bloodworth said holding a special election at city hall could also pose problems. Bloodworth said one concern is that voters casting ballots in the general election would not travel to separate polling places for the alcohol election, causing a low turnout.

The city would not have use of a tabulating machine because both would be in use by the county for the general election. Election judges also would be in short supply because the same people often fill the role for both county and city.

Kelton said that to her knowledge, the county and city have never held a joint election.

It was the third petition for the sale of alcohol to circulate Henrietta in less than a year. The first, backed by Tommy Lyde of Henrietta, was short by 21 signatures deemed invalid. The petition was circulated in December, with a goal of placing the issue on May’s municipal ballot.

O’Malley’s first attempt was turned down after the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission took exception to some of the wording on the ballot. Despite the setback, O’Malley increased his efforts, turning in a petition with 44.68 percent of registered voters listed. Only 35 percent was required for the petition to be successful.

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Pioneer Sentinel

The Pioneer Sentinel is an online newspaper designed to deliver the news of Clay County, Texas, in a concise and community-friendly format.

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