Alcohol vote ballots to be counted here
There will be another first in Baldwin City's first-ever December election. Douglas County Clerk Jamie Shew has made the arrangements and a vote counting machine will be in Baldwin to determine the outcome of the Dec. 22 vote.
"Yes, that's what we're going to try," said Shew. "In talking to (City Clerk) Peggy Nichols, we're going to set up in the American Legion Hall."
The Legion Hall will take the place of the usual ballot counting location -- the Douglas County Courthouse in Lawrence. Shew thought because it's a Baldwin-only election, the count should be made here.
"Basically, we'll be doing there what we usually do in the courthouse," he said. "We think it makes a lot of sense. That's where the interest is."
Baldwin voters are being asked whether the Sunday sale of alcohol and liquor in package form should be allowed. The Baldwin City Council approved the sales in September on a split 3-2 vote, which brought a protest petition by those opposing Sunday sales.
Alcohol is already available in Baldwin on Sundays, but only by the drink at various bars. Sunday sales of packaged alcohol and liquor is available in numerous nearby cities and business owners here requested the city make the sales legal here to counteract those lost sales. Opponents cited religious and "quality of life" issues for not allowing the sales.
Because of statues regarding protest petitions, the election had to be conducted within 45 days of the petition being found valid. That was Nov. 17, which meant the election had to be before Jan. 1. The council was tied to picking an election date by those time constraints and chose before Christmas instead of after.
Now, the question is how many voters will either show up for the election, take advantage of advance voting or absentee ballots. There are 34 voters on the permanent absentee ballot list and the county clerk sent those.
"We've had about 15 mail in advance, but only one person has come in to vote," Shew said Wednesday. "I hate making predictions, but, yeah, I think that does (show the amount of interest). We're expecting it will be a low turnout, but hopefully not. The interest in advance voting hasn't been too great."
Advance voting can be done at the courthouse Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Absentee ballots must arrive at the courthouse by Dec. 22, the day of the election. Otherwise, Baldwin voters must show up at their usual polling places in the city to cast their vote. Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Legion Hall, Baldwin City Fire Department and Baldwin Elementary School Primary Center.
Nichols is pleased that the votes will be counted here, but has no idea how voter turnout will go.
"I think it's great," Nichols said. "It's always a wait to find out, but have them here and counted will be great. On regular elections times, I'm in an odd position because I don't have anything to do it.
"I think the weather will make a difference," she said regarding turnout. "It always does. It will be interesting no matter what happens. Sometimes it's hard to get a read on these things."
The vote counting machine will be transported sometime next week and will be tested several times. Those tests, as well as the actual Dec. 22 vote counting are open to the public.
Additional information on the election will be available on the Signal's Web site at www.baldwincity.com, including previous stories on the subject. They can be found in the archives section of the site using key words such as alcohol, liquor, city and council. The stories began in July when the matter was first brought to the city council.