Circuit Judge Phil Smith ruled today in Pocahontas that a petition drive to call a local option alcohol election in Randolph County had fallen short of the signature threshold. NEA Report has the full rundown.
Supporters of the initiative persuaded the judge to count some signatures that County Clerk Rhonda Blevins had rejected, but upheld a sufficient number of other rejections for the measure to fall short. The finla count was almost 500 short of the 3,813 needed.
David Koon detailed the challenge in Randolph County earlier.
A key issue was the clerk’s decision to throw out whole pages of signatures if a single signature from outside the county was found on a page, a requirement of a recent state law. The judge rejected the argument that this law was unconstitutional. Also critical in the final count was exclusion of 208 signatures gathered by someone not yet registered as a paid canvasser and another 114 rejected because they were on pages where signature lines had been notarized before they were signed. The judge also found many signatures with “common authorship.”
Linda Bowlin, who led the campaign, told NEA Report that her group respected the court and would have to regroup.
“We are obviously disappointed but certainly respect the court’s ruling,” Bowlin said. “The law is fraught with land mines and traps and should be reconsidered by the legislature so that the citizens of this county and throughout the state can access the ballot on this issue in the same manner that other issues are brought up for votes.”