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VOL. 129 | NO. 165 | Monday, August 25, 2014

Wine Referendum Makes Suburban Ballot

By Bill Dries

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Voters in the six suburban towns and cities in Shelby County will vote in November on whether they want grocery stores to sell wine.

Voters in the six suburban towns and cities in Shelby County will vote in November on allowing grocery stores to sell wine. The Shelby County Election Commission was still counting signatures on referendum petitions for Memphis and unincorporated Shelby County late Friday.

(Daily News File/Lance Murphey)

The referendum question is on the Nov. 4 ballot in Arlington, Lakeland, Collierville, Germantown, Millington and Bartlett, as of Friday, Aug. 22.

And the Shelby County Election Commission continued through Friday to verify signatures on petitions to put the same question on the ballot in Memphis and in unincorporated Shelby County.

Thursday evening was the deadline to submit the petitions, which had to be signed by voters who lived in the city or an area where the referendum question would be on the ballot. The number of signatures needed was 10 percent of those from that area or city who voted in the last general election for governor.

Just before the Thursday deadline to submit the referendum petitions to the election commission, backers of the proposal submitted an additional 1,300 petition pages with 18,000 signatures.

At 14 signatures per page, the election commission estimated that roughly half of the signatures were proving to be from citizens who either weren’t registered to vote or who didn’t live in the specific area.

The referendum requirement was a legislative compromise among grocery stores that want the ability to sell wine and liquor store owners who argued allowing that would hurt their businesses.

Under the state law, only communities that allow liquor by the drink can hold such referendums.

If voters in a city or community approve the sale of wine in grocery stores, it takes effect in July 2016.

The delay is to give liquor stores an opportunity to prepare for the impact.

The Shelby County petition efforts were part of a statewide initiative backed heavily by a “Red, White and Food” campaign coordinated by the Tennessee Grocers & Convenience Store Association and the Kroger supermarkets.

At the Thursday deadline to submit the petitions the campaign had a tent outside Election Commission offices seeking additional signatures.

The petition efforts across the seven cities involved gathering a total of at least 19,401 signatures with the Memphis effort requiring the most at a minimum of 13,372 signatures. Millington required the least amount of signatures at 325.

The seven cities in Shelby County join 52 other communities across the state that will have the question on their ballots in November.

The Shelby County Election Commission still has to certify the overall November ballot, which also includes state and federal general elections as well as municipal elections in Bartlett, Germantown, Collierville and Millington.

Still to come is a writ for election on the special general election for state Senate District 30, the Senate seat Jim Kyle is giving up as he becomes a Chancery Court judge next month.

Both local political parties will select their nominees through an executive committee vote instead of primary elections.

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