LITTLE ROCK — A proposal that would end dry counties in Arkansas has enough signatures to appear on the November ballot, state officials verified Friday.
The Arkansas Alcoholic Beverage Amendment needed 78,133 signatures to go before voters on Nov. 4. Secretary of State Mark Martin’s office said organizers turned in 127,265 signatures, 87,102 of which were verified to be from registered voters.
David Couch, organizer of the group sponsoring the ballot item, said Friday that he hopes to raise $1.5 million from grocers and convenience store owners to campaign for the amendment. He said that would be in addition to the $300,000 the group already spent paying canvassers to gather signatures.
“We expect to run a full campaign on the issue,” Couch said.
At present, 37 of Arkansas’ 75 counties are dry.
Couch said the group plans to argue that it’s time for the Arkansas to have a uniform, statewide alcohol law, though opponents have argued that it’s proper to keep open the possibility of local-option wet-dry votes.
“The majority of counties in the state of Arkansas will not ever have the chance to do that because the liquor lobbyists have got the rules so it’s almost impossible to get on the ballot. You have to have signatures of 38 percent of registered voters,” Couch said.
He noted that Bentonville-based Wal-Mart Stores Inc. ran an effort to have wet votes in Craighead, Faulkner and Saline counties, but was only able to get enough signatures to make the ballot in Saline County.
Attorney Elizabeth Robben Murray, who represents a group that opposes Couch’s measure, Let Local Communities Decide for Themselves, has said the group expects to challenge the validity of the measure before the Arkansas Supreme Court. She did not return immediately return a message left Friday.
Couch said his group has reserved television advertising time and doesn’t expect the group to be crowded out by high-profile races for U.S. Senate and governor.