Archive for Thursday, December 22, 2005

Baldwin voters to decide Sunday alcohol sales

December 22, 2005

It's election day today in Baldwin City. Polls opened at 7 a.m. and close at 7 p.m. Baldwin voters are being asked whether to allow the Sunday sale of alcohol or not.

If the weather forecasters are right, weather won't be a factor in keeping people from the polls.

"Yes, it's supposed to be nice," said Baldwin City Clerk Peggy Nichols. "I'm looking forward to that."

Polls are open at the usual locations: Baldwin Fire Station; American Legion Hall; and the Baldwin Elementary School Primary Center. The votes will also be tallied at the Legion Hall.

That has never been done before. In the past, votes were counted at the Douglas County Courthouse for normal elections. County Clerk Jamie Shew just thought it made sense to have the count in Baldwin because that's where the election is.

A vote counting machine was moved into City Hall Tuesday morning. It was moved to the Legion Wednesday, where a test was done at 1 p.m. to insure its accuracy. Results of the election will be available tonight on the Signal's Web site at www.baldwincity.com.

"We'll run a sample through it," Shew said of the machine. "We'll hand count them first, so we know what the results are."

Although the ballots will be counted tonight and an outcome will be known, it won't be official until Douglas County Commissioners canvass the vote.

"Right," said Shew. "That will be done Dec. 27, so it won't be official until then."

With normal Tuesday elections, commissioners conduct the canvass the following Friday. But, with it being a Thursday election and the Christmas holiday, Tuesday was the earliest the canvass could be done, he said.

So, if alcohol sales on Sunday are approved Thursday, liquor stores and convenience stores would not be able to sell alcohol Sunday, which is Christmas Day. But, if the measure is approved and the canvass confirms that, alcohol could be sold the next Sunday, which is Jan. 1 -- and is also New Year's Day. If alcohol sales on Sunday aren't approved, nothing changes. The vote is only on packaged alcohol and liquor. Liquor by the drink is already allowed in Baldwin on Sundays.

Neither Nichols nor Shew had any predictions on what voter turnout might be for the special election. They are both concerned about the wording on the ballots.

"We've had a lot of calls about it," said Nichols.

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?"

The reason the question is written the way it is, Shew said, is because it's the result of a protest petition filed with the county after the Baldwin City Council approved the Sunday sale of alcohol in September. County officials have said it's their interpretation of the wording that a "yes" vote today is against Sunday sales, while a "no" vote is for Sunday sales.

"They presented a petition protesting what the council voted on," said Shew. "Basically, it trumps that vote."

The council's approval of Sunday alcohol sales also included the prohibition of that happening on Easter, which is always on a Sunday. The reason that holiday isn't included in the ballot question, Shew said, is because state statue doesn't allow Sunday sales of alcohol on Easter. Again, the ballot wording goes against all Sunday sales, but also includes the additional holidays that aren't on Sundays.

"The law, no matter what, prohibits it on Easter," he said. "The ballot wording reflects the council's action. The law doesn't allow it on Easter at all."

Shew also said that interest in the election in regards to advance voting has been light. Only three people have advance voted in person at the Douglas County Courthouse and 27 absentee ballots have arrived as of Tuesday. The public is welcome at the Legion Hall Thursday to see the ballots counted.

The council was approached by two local businessmen, Frank Foye and Stan Larrick, concerning the sale of alcohol on Sundays. Foye's request was in July and Larrick made the same plea at the next meeting in August. Foye owns Santa Fe Market, which would be allowed to sell cereal malt beverages and Larrick owns Cool Cat Liquor, which would be allowed to sell liquor. In both cases, it would be in the original package.

The council debated the issue twice, which included hearing from opponents of the sales, including several local clergy and Joyce and Bill Callahan, owners of Callahan Liquor. Foye and Larrick both spoke for the sales, citing lost business to nearby cities, such as Lawrence, which has Sunday alcohol sales.

The council, on a split 3-2 vote, approved Sunday alcohol sales. Council members Ted Brecheisen Jr., Tony Brown and Council President Amy Cleavinger voted in favor. Council Members Nancy Brown and Doyle Jardon voted against.

Baldwin resident Charlene Coates led the petition drive to force the vote. Coates went door to door to obtain the 85 signatures necessary to cause the election and was helped by two other people.

Additional stories on the issue can be found in the Signal's archive section of the Web site at www.baldwincity.com using key words such as alcohol, liquor, city and council.

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