Judge ruled moist petition can be on Nov. 4 ballot

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Dry Ridge absentees will revote after language change

By Bryan Marshall

Sixteen Dry Ridge citizens will have to recast their local option vote dealing with alcohol sales in the city.

Circuit Judge Stephen Bates ruled Wednesday, Oct. 22, that the original ballot used by the absentee voters needed to match the language in a certified petition filed by J.B. Barnes.

The petition, which was signed by 97 residents, called for a special election to decide whether or not the voters are in favor of "the sale of alcoholic beverages by the drink in Dry Ridge at restaurants and dining facilities with a seating capacity of at least 100 persons and which derive at least 70 percent of their gross receipts from the sale of food."

The petition's language was similar to the wording of a state law (KRS 242.185) that was last amended in 2000.

However, after Grant County Clerk Leatha Conrad certified the petition, but prior to putting the question on the ballot, the county clerk's office became aware of a newer state law (KRS 242.1244) that changes the minimum seating capacity for restaurants and dining facilities from 100 to 50.

When placed on the ballot, the question used the 50-person seating capacity instead of the 100-person seating capacity in the original petition.

Grant County Attorney Jack Gatlin filed court papers on behalf of Conrad after a question arose about the difference in wording.

"We just are very fortunate that we were able to address this issue prior to the election to minimize the risk of litigation," he said. "All we were concerned with in this office is to make sure whatever votes were cast were counted. We, by no means, took any stance on this issue. That's not our role."

The more recent law, which became effective in June 2007, also requires that a meal be purchased with an alcoholic beverage, prohibits the operation of an open bar within the restaurant or dining facility and includes a limitation that no alcohol beverage can be served more than 30 minutes after a meal is completed.

With the language now changed on the ballot to match the petition, those provisions will not be in place if the local option passes, Gatlin said.

Of the 16 absentee voters who cast their vote, seven did so by machine while nine used mail-in ballots, Conrad said.

"I had to call the (voting machine) vendor and let them know what was going on," she said. "They had to come in and reset the machines that had the question on it. (The Board of Elections) had to do an inspection on those again. That way they will be ready to go out on election day with the right wording."

"I've called pretty much all of them who came in person to vote on the machine and let them be aware of what is going on," Conrad said.

Gatlin said he was pleased that the judge ruled in a quick manner to allow the county clerk's office ample time to change the ballot and have the voters cast their ballot again.

"I think it was such a small amount that we were confident that those folks could be notified in the next two weeks and be given the right question," he said.