Protest petition forces alcohol onto ballot
It's not going to be convenient for just about anyone to vote in the special election Dec. 22 regarding the sale of alcohol on Sundays in Baldwin City. It's caused the need for special arrangements by many to cast their ballots.
"Hasn't it though," said Charlene Coates, who promised the Baldwin City Council she would get a protest petition signed and filed to cause a special election after the council approved Sunday sales in September. "I'm going to have to get an absentee ballot because I'm going to be gone. I'm getting married on Dec. 18."
Also scrambling is the Douglas County Clerk's office, which must provide the various ballots and conduct the special election. Connie Ingle, who spearheads elections for the clerk's office, doesn't remember a December election and knows it comes at a time when people are extremely busy and will cause them to make special arrangements if they want to vote, but won't be here Dec. 22.
"True, very true," said Ingle. "I don't recall one (December election)."
Baldwin City Clerk Peggy Nichols said she had initially been told that ballots would be available today. However, Ingle doesn't think that will happen.
"It's possible, but doubtful," she said. "It will probably be next week. It's going to be faxed today (Tuesday). They say they can do it with a turn around time in five days."
Early voting at the Douglas County Courthouse won't be available until the ballots arrive. Other options include absentee ballots, such as Coates plans to get. In order to obtain them, a form has to be filled out. It can be obtained online at the county Web site at douglas-county.com or picked up at the courthouse. Those that are on the permanent absentee ballot list will have their ballots mailed to them, Ingle said.
What's at issue is whether to allow Sunday sales of liquor and cereal malt beverages in Baldwin City. The city council approved the sales by a 3-2 vote in September. Coates promised the protest petition. It was delivered to the county clerk Nov. 14 and by Nov. 17, 85 of the 150 signatures were verified, which was all that was needed.
"That's when the clock started ticking," said Ingle. "It needs to be published twice in the paper before the election."
The legal notice is in today's Signal on page B-5. It will be in next week's issue, too. The election had to be held within 45 days of the petition being verified. That meant it had to be before Jan. 1. The city council chose the Dec. 22 date at last week's meeting.
Coates is pleased that all Baldwin voters will get a chance to decide the issue.
"I was elated with it," Coates said of the petition drive. "I was excited. It shows that people still have their rights. I think people, just like I think, after the city council does something, it's done. But, we got the vote. We got the chance for people to put in their input.
"There were so many people that said 'thank you for doing this,'" she said. "I went door to door on four different days for two hours. Joyce (Callahan) got some from her work and another nice lady got me 25. All together, we had enough."
The question on the ballot reads -- "Shall the following be adopted: Within the city of Baldwin City, shall sale at retail of cereal malt beverage in the original package be prohibited on Sunday and shall the sale at retail of alcoholic liquor in the original package be prohibited on Sunday, Memorial Day, Independence Day and Labor Day?"
According to Ingle, the ballot verbage means if residents don't want Sunday sales of alcohol, they should vote yes on the question. If they do want Sunday sales, vote no.
"That's the way I read it," she said. "That's the way I interpret it. Of course, others will interpret it differently."
The city council approved the Sunday sale in September on a split, 3-2 vote. Council Members Ted Brecheisen Jr., Tony Brown and Council President Amy Cleavinger voted to approve. Council Members Nancy Brown and Doyle Jardon voted against the measure. It had been debated twice at meetings before the votes were cast.
The Signal will update its Web site at www.baldwincity.com when the ballots are available at the courthouse and other information. In the meantime, residents need to think about arrangements that have to be made.
"Be sure and get your absentee ballots," said Coates.