Absentee voting starts for wet-dry vote in E'town

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County Clerk says voter turnout could be low

By Marty Finley

City residents away from Elizabethtown during a special wet-dry vote on Jan. 8 still can ensure their voices are heard on the issue of expanded alcohol sales.

Absentee voting has opened at the Hardin County Clerk’s Office at 14 Public Square in downtown Elizabethtown, where city residents can cast a machine ballot from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday until Jan. 7. Voting is open only to residents of the city’s 14 precincts.

Hardin County Clerk Kenny Tabb said the county also will send paper absentee ballots if requested. Only two paper absentee ballots had been authorized as of Tuesday afternoon and no one came to the office to cast a vote, Tabb said. The last day to request an absentee ballot by mail is Dec. 28, according to Tabb’s office.

To assist those who have trouble voting during the week, the Hardin County Clerk’s Office is open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 5. The office typically opens on multiple Saturdays before an election, but Tabb said he does not believe more than one Saturday is necessary for this vote,

“I just don’t think you’re going to have the kind of demand for it,” he said. “It’s not like a regular election.”

His office is closed Christmas Eve and Christmas Day as well as New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.

The wet-dry vote comes after Judge-Executive Harry Berry issued an executive order calling for a special election in response to Tabb’s office verifying signatures on a petition. The effort was organized by Yes for Economic Success, a group comprised of local residents and economic development organizations. Tabb said Y.E.S. needed 1,375 signatures from registered voters but captured more than 1,400.

Y.E.S. led the initiative to expand alcohol sales in Elizabethtown, Radcliff and Vine Grove in three citywide votes last October where residents voted overwhelmingly in favor of more alcohol options. Elizabethtown and Vine Grove gained access to retail beer and package liquor licenses while Radcliff became fully wet.

Because Elizabethtown is a fourth-class city, the state requires a second election with a separate question asking residents if they want to obtain retail liquor drink licenses, which allows for bars and establishments without seating or sales requirements. Elizabethtown requires restaurants to generate a minimum of 70 percent of sales from food and seat at least 100 patrons to gain an alcohol license under present law.

Y.E.S. has argued these quotas are overly restrictive to downtown Elizabethtown and limits the city’s economic growth as it works to compete with cities such as Bardstown.

Concerning voter turnout, next month’s vote is hard to gauge, Tabb said.

“I don’t know what will happen this time,” he said. “I haven’t heard a lot of discussion about it.”

Voter turnout for last year’s alcohol elections in the county’s three largest cities fell short of expec-tations based on previous wet-dry elections, which typically attracted 50 percent or more of registered voters, according to Tabb. In Elizabethtown, only around 25 percent of voters turned out last year, Tabb said.

“It might not be as strong as it was in 2011,” Tabb said of the upcoming vote.

Marty Finley can be reached at (270) 505-1762 or mfinley@thenewsenterprise.com.