Liquor legalization push under way in Union County

By Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal Oxford Bureau


NEW ALBANY – Union County liquor proponents have begun another attempt at legalizing the sale of alcoholic beverages.
A group calling itself Citizens for Voting mailed petitions and return envelopes to more than 13,500 households across the county, the New Albany Gazette reported Friday.
If 1,500 petitions are returned with valid voters’ signatures, the Board of Supervisors would be required to set an election. If the effort is successful, the next opportunity to coincide with a scheduled election is March 13, when Mississippi holds its presidential primaries, but state law requires it to be held within 60 days of the petitions’ certification.
Union County voters rejected legalization of liquor a 57-43 in November 2008.
“The last time we voted on this, it was with a general election. It was still (technically) a special election, but it was held on the same day,” Union County Circuit Clerk Phyllis Stanford said.
Stanford emphasized the petition drive is a private-sector effort.
“It has nothing to do with the Circuit Clerk’s Office or the Board of Supervisors,” she said. “We won’t know whether they’re going to get the signatures until they bring them in.”
Under Mississippi law, counties are “dry” for liquor and wine unless a majority of their electorate votes to legalize it. Forty-four counties have legalized such alcoholic beverages, along with parts of four other counties with divided judicial districts.
Elections either for or against the sale of liquor must be at least two years apart.
The default position for beer and light wine – beverages of no more than 5 percent alcohol content – under state law is “wet,” but 36 counties, including Union County, voted themselves dry for beer and light wine. Within those, voters have approved legalizing beer and light wine in numerous municipalities, including New Albany, where it was voted in last year.
errol.castens@journalinc.com