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Group Pushing For Statewide Alcohol Sales Submits More Signatures

LITTLE ROCK — The chairman of a group seeking to place on the November ballot a measure to allow statewide alcohol sales submitted what he said were 41,492 additional signatures in support of the measure to the secretary of state’s office Friday.

Let Arkansas Decide previously fell short of the 78,133 signatures of registered Arkansas voters needed to place a proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot, but the group qualified for an additional 30 days to make up the 17,133 signatures it lacked. Chairman David Couch made the second submission slightly ahead of the Monday deadline.

The proposed amendment would make all 75 Arkansas counties wet. Currently the state has 38 wet counties and 37 dry counties.

It will be up to the secretary of state’s office to validate the newly submitted signatures. Couch said he was confident at least 31,000 of the signatures submitted Friday were valid, which would bring the group’s total submission to 92,000.

“I am 100 percent confident that (the measure) is going to be certified by the secretary of state,” he said. “And then of course I anticipate that the opponents will file some sort of lawsuit to try to take it off the ballot.”

The ballot committee Let Local Communities Decide for Themselves, which was formed to oppose the measure, has asked Secretary of State Mark Martin not to certify the proposed amendment, arguing that the initial submission of signatures was made on July 7 and the state constitution requires signatures in support of statewide ballot initiatives to be submitted at least two months before the election, which this years falls on Nov. 4.

A lawyer for the committee has said it will file a lawsuit if Martin certifies the measure.

Couch said Friday he believed such a challenge would fail. He said state the state constitution and a state law require election deadlines to be moved to the next business day when they fall on a holiday or weekend.

July 7 was the first business day after the Independence Day holiday.

“The overriding (factor) would be the public policy of the state of Arkansas, and I don’t think the public policy of the state of Arkansas is that we have to turn in on Independence Day when the secretary of state’s closed,” Couch said.

Couch said the group used about 100 paid canvassers to collect the signatures. The group will get to work right away campaigning for passage of the measure, he said.

The group Give Arkansas a Raise Now also has been given until Monday to collect additional signatures in support of its proposed initiated act to raise the state minimum wage gradually from $6.25 an hour to $8.50 an hour by 2017. Chairman Steve Copley said Friday he expected to submit enough signatures on Monday to secure a spot on the ballot.

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