Liquor vote petition reaches halfway

Published 5:00 pm Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Corinth voters approved a measure last week legalizing liquor sales, but organizers of a petition to do the same in Brookhaven have only reached about the halfway point.

     Kathy Behan hopes renewed efforts in the upcoming year can net the needed names in time for a referendum on liquor sales to run concurrent with the 2013 municipal elections.

     “After Christmas I’m going to try to do another push,” said Behan, who is spearheading the petition effort along with Bill Perkins.

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     So far, 904 names have been verified as registered voters on a petition filed with the city clerk’s office.

     Several petition sheets continue to circulate at local convenience stores and businesses, including the A One Stop convenience stores in the area, Behan said.

     Under a state law passed earlier this year, citizens can force a vote on legalizing liquor sales with a petition signed by 20 percent of the city’s registered voters.

     Brookhaven currently has 9,091 registered voters, said Lincoln County Circuit Clerk Dustin Bairfield on Friday. Therefore, a successful petition needs 1,819 names.

     Perkins and Behan both noted they’ve collected significantly more names than 900, but many of them proved unusable.

     For one, legibility of signatures has been a major issue.

     “They can’t just scribble their names,” Behan said. “They have to print their names so we can read it, and they have to put their address down.”

     Ineligible voters have also clogged up petition efforts.

     “We also have to make it clear you have to be a registered voter in the city,” Perkins said. “Some (signatures) were from the county and some never got around to being registered voters.”

     Behan remains certain the majority of Brookhaven residents want legal liquor sales in the city.

     “I know there are people that want to sign it,” she said. “I just have to find them.”

     Once Behan presents city aldermen with a successful petition, only a majority of voters would need to support the measure in a referendum election.

     If the referendum failed, another couldn’t be held for two years.

     In Corinth, 70 percent of voters approved liquor sales in the city.

     Corinth became the first Mississippi city to legalize alcohol under the law enacted this year allowing county seats and cities of a population greater than 5,000 to vote on the matter.

     Behan indicated a desire to see a referendum on the ballot in Brookhaven alongside city elections to save the expense of a special election.

     Party primaries for city offices will be May 7 with the general election for municipal offices on June 4.

     If a referendum on liquor sales successfully passes in Brookhaven, aldermen would have the authority to restrict liquor to by the glass sales in restaurants or to allow package stores.

     Behan said she plans to contact the organizers of the Corinth petition effort to see if they can offer any strategies she can adapt to Brookhaven.

     “I’m not giving up,” Behan said. “That’s all I can say.”