Archive for Thursday, December 8, 2005

Holiday ballots are a real rarity

December 8, 2005

Douglas County Clerk Jamie Shew knew that December elections, such as the one to be held in Baldwin City, were rare, but research done in the clerk's office found out just how rare.

It was 33 years ago, Dec. 11, 1972, when Lawrence voters went to the polls to decide a bond issue for the Lawrence Municipal Airport.

"That's the only December election we've come across," said Shew, who was in Baldwin Monday delivering new voter registration cards.

His office has been jumping since a protest petition was filed against an ordinance passed by the Baldwin City Council in September that allows the Sunday sale of alcohol in package form. The petition was filed Nov. 14 and verified Nov. 17. By law, the election had to be held within 45 days.

Shew's staff rushed ballots to the printer and they are now available for early voting at the Douglas County Courthouse and for use as absentee ballots.

"We've got ballots," Shew said Friday. "Starting Monday (Dec. 5) they can advance vote in person at the courthouse."

Advance voting can be done Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the clerk's office in the courthouse in Lawrence. Another option is absentee ballots. 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. Requests for absentee ballots can be faxed to the clerk's office.

Absentee ballots must be returned to the clerk's office by Dec. 22. Shew also advises not to wait around with mailing them in.

"They have to be in our hands by Dec. 22," he said, adding that postmarked by Dec. 22 doesn't count. "Because of the holiday mail, they should get the application here as soon as possible and get the ballots returned as soon as possible."

What's at issue is whether to allow Sunday sales of liquor and cereal malt beverages in packaged form in Baldwin City. The city council approved the sales by a 3-2 vote in September. The protest petition forced the vote and legal notice had to be printed twice prior to the election.

The legal notice is in today's Signal on page B-7. It was in last week's issue, too. The election had to be before Jan. 1. The city council chose the Dec. 22 date at a meeting two weeks ago.

The subject came up again at Monday's meeting. The council had approved Sunday sale of alcohol in packaged form in September on a split 3-2 vote. Council members Ted Brecheisen Jr., Tony Brown and Council President Amy Cleavinger voted for the sales. Council members Nancy Brown and Doyle Jardon voted against.

The council expressed concern over the question on the ballot and on how many people would actually vote.

"Whose going to get out and vote?" said Mayor Gary Walbridge.

Cleavinger was confused by how the question appears on the ballot. The question 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 the county clerk's office, 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.

"People should get out and vote and read the question carefully," said Cleavinger. "It reminded me of taking tests in college."

City Administrator Jeff Dingman said the question had to be worded that way.

"The ordinance that we passed allowed it, so the protest goes against it," said Dingman.

The council debated the issue at two meetings, which were attended by proponents and opponents of the issue. Those stories can be found on the Signal's Web site at www.baldwincity.com in the archives section. The election has also sparked discussion on the Web site's community forum, SpeakOut!

"You all know the story," said Walbridge.

The Signal will update the Web site with additional election information as it becomes available.

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