Petition circulating requests vote to legalize alcohol sales in county
A petition is circulating around Estill County requesting signatures to force an election for whether to allow the sale of alcoholic beverages in the county.
Jacob Estes, with the help of a handful of other local men and women, has been collecting signatures for approximately three weeks and reports that, at press time, the group had more than 400 signatures.
Estes said he wants local people to be given the opportunity to at least decide if they want alcohol sales to be legal in the county. He also said he believes if alcohol sales were made legal, Estill County would benefit as a whole.
“Look at how much money Richmond, Winchester and surrounding cities get from alcohol sales to people from Estill County,” he said. “They are getting revenue off of us.”
Estes said he thinks if Estill County went wet more businesses would open in town and fill in the “numerous empty business buildings” around the county.
The decision for Estes to try to push a vote was prompted by a study done by the University of Kentucky in 2010 that explored the benefits of expanding alcohol sales in Kentucky.
One benefit that Estes noted was that it encourages local people to spend money in locally owned businesses. He think the taxes collected from legalized alcohol sales could be used to hire more officers or pay for other necessities in the county.
Estill County Judge Executive Wallace Taylor said the group would need at least 654 verified signatures before the issue would go to a vote. Verified signatures include those belonging to registered Estill County voters.
The number of signatures needed is determined by voter turnout in the most recent elections. In order for an issue to go to a vote petitioners must collect 25 percent of the total number of voters who voted in the election. Only 2,616 of over 10,000 registered voters went to the polls for the May primaries meaning Estes and his team need a total of 654 signatures to accomplish their goal.
The previous petition followed a presidential election and would have required over 1,300 verified signatures in order to force a vote, Taylor said.
“The trouble is that there are a lot of duplicates, out of county and unregistered voter signatures to weed through,” Taylor said. “The last group was about 100 signatures short once it had gone through the verification process.”
Estes said they are shooting for more than the needed number of votes in order to create a cushion for what he calls the inevitable.
“There really isn’t a way to monitor who signs the petition,” he said. “There isn’t a way to stop people who can’t be counted as a verified signature from doing it.”
Taylor said if the groups collects enough signatures he would be required to schedule a special election within 30 days.
Estes said he wants to stress that the petition should be signed by anyone interested in the issue whether they are for or against alcohol sales.
“I want people to know this is not a vote for or against alcohol sales,” he s
aid. “Signatures simply mean we want to see it go to a vote.”
Those circulating the petition said they hope to have enough signatures by August 20.
Petitions can be found at several local businesses like Pizza Hut, Roses Cash and Carry, 82 Food Mart, The Mike’s Travel Agency, Irvine Stop & Shop and the Irvine Food Court among others.