BOONEVILLE • A yearlong effort to legalize alcohol in the city of Booneville will come to a head next month.
On Oct. 15, voters will have the chance to voice their opinion on whether beer, wine and liquor can be possessed or sold within the city limits. The polls will open at 7 a.m. at the Westside Community Center and remain open until 7 p.m. Only Booneville residents will be allowed to vote.
“This is not a moral issue, it’s a business decision,” said CJ McCoy of Moving Booneville Forward. “Beer and liquor are already in Booneville.
“But people are spending their money in other counties and the tax money stays there. That is detrimental to Booneville.”
Because of state statutes, there will be two questions on the referendum. One vote will be whether to allow beer (up to 8 percent alcohol) and light wine (up to 5 percent alcohol). The other vote will be for liquor and wine with more than 5 percent alcohol.
The elections are separate. Someone can vote for one issue and against the other, if they choose.
Moving Booneville Forward was formed last fall to initiate a petition drive. In order to force a vote, the group had to collect signatures from at least 20 percent of the city’s registered voters. Instead of trying to get nearly 3,000 signatures to force a countywide referendum, McCoy decided to focus on Booneville, where she would need the signatures of less than 1,000 registered voters.
“The real push to get signatures started in August,” McCoy said. “We went to the polls Aug. 6 and set up tents. That’s where we got most of our signatures. We continued to have events, mostly on weekends, to keep getting signatures.”
The group was able to turn in the signatures at city hall on Aug. 22. City Clerk Lavaile Shields compared the signatures with the names on the poll book to make sure they were all registered voters. After culling any duplicates and people who were not registered voters, the petitions ended up with 983 signatures for beer and light wine, and 946 for liquor.
“They only needed to have 930 signatures for each,” Shields said.
The board of aldermen set the election date at their Sept. 3 meeting.
“We started absentee voting the next day (at city hall),” said Shields. “We will be open from 8 a.m. until noon the two Saturdays before the election, Oct. 5 and Oct 12, to allow people to vote absentee if they need to.”
This is the second time in a decade the citizens of Booneville and Prentiss County have voted on the issue of alcohol.
The group Citizens for New Business & Growth got enough signatures to force a referendum Aug. 17, 2010, on the question of beer and light wine in Booneville. In a tight race, beer was defeated by just 21 votes, 1,362 against and 1,341 votes for.
After that defeat, the citizens group launched a second petition drive, this time forcing a countywide election on liquor. Despite light turnout, that Dec. 14 referendum saw 3,657 vote against alcohol, while only 2,167 voted for it.
State law says there must be a five-year span between liquor elections. Beer elections can be held every two years.
McCoy said organizers have been talking about a new referendum since 2015, but were told it would soon be a moot point. They were led to believe that the state legislature planned to abolish prohibition and make the entire state wet.
“That never happened,” McCoy said, “so we started collecting signatures.
“We hope Booneville will pass this, then Prentiss County will follow.”