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June 19, 2012

County wet/dry petition turned in to Board of Registrars

A long-circulating petition calling for a referendum on legalized alcohol sales in unincorporated Cullman County was finally submitted Monday to the Cullman County Board of Registrars.

The move to allow county voters to decide on the wet/dry issue began in January of last year, only two months after residents of the City of Cullman voted to allow liquor sales there for the first time since Prohibition.

Bremen resident Dale Lamar has remained the driving force behind the current wet/dry petition since he began placing signature forms on convenience store counters across the county.

Monday morning — 17 months after he started that effort — Lamar said he felt there were enough signatures on the two inch-thick stack of papers to hand the petition over — even though he still plans to hand in a few more stray petition sheets while the Board pores over the long list he's already turned in.

"The best that they can figure right now is that we need about 5,700 names," said Lamar. "When we started, we'd been told we needed around 7,000, but the City of Cullman is wet; the City of Hanceville went wet. And those names would have to be taken off the petition, since anybody from Cullman or Hanceville who signed it won't count."

In order for the petition to succeed — and for a wet/dry referendum to make an upcoming ballot — it must contain signatures from at least 25 percent of the eligible voters who participated in the most recent general election.

Cullman County — including the now-wet cities of Cullman and Hanceville — had 30,281 ballots cast in the Nov. 2010 general election. However, at least one-third of that total won't be factored into the state's 25-percent formula, since they represent ballots cast in the City of Cullman.

The elections staff in the Cullman County probate judge's office has requested guidance from the Alabama Secretary of State on whether to also strike Hanceville's general election ballot total, bringing the threshold even lower. While Hanceville was dry at the time of the last general election, voters there have since approved legalized sales.

Lamar said he anticipates a conclusive answer on how many signatures he'll need later this week.

* Benjamin Bullard can be reached by e-mail at bbullard@cullmantimes.com or by telephone at 734-2131 ext. 270.

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