Arkansas Alcoholic Beverage Initiative, Issue 4 (2014)

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Issue 4
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Type:Initiated constitutional amendment
Referred by:Citizens
Status:On the ballot
2014 measures
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November 4
Issue 1
Issue 2
Issue 3
Issue 4
Issue 5
PollsFull text

The Arkansas Alcoholic Beverage Initiative, Issue 4 is on the November 4, 2014 election ballot in Arkansas as an initiated constitutional amendment. The measure, if approved, would legalize the sale, manufacture and transportation of alcohol or "intoxicating liquors" statewide. Currently, certain counties in Arkansas are dry and do not sell any liquor. The Arkansas General Assembly would be tasked with regulating the manufacture, sale distribution and transportation of the alcohol. According to the initiative, "intoxicating liquors" are defined as "any beverage containing more than one-half of one percent (0.5 percent) of alcohol by weight."[1][2]


As of 2014, Arkansas allows for county control over the prohibition of alcohol. The state is nearly evenly split on a county basis with 37 counties being dry and 38 being wet or mixed.[3] A mixed county is one where the county is wet, but a number of municipalities within the county may be dry. Arkansas is one of ten states that allows dry counties.[4]

The following is a map showing dry counties in red, wet counties in blue and mixed counties in yellow:

Alcohol control in the United States.svg

According to a report published by The Public Policy Center of the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture Research and Extension detailing background information on Issue 1:[5]

Arkansas has a long history of laws regarding alcohol. After the 1933 repeal of a U.S. Constitutional Amendment banning alcohol sales, all of Arkansas was considered “wet,” in that alcohol sales were once again legal everywhere. In 1935, legislators passed a state law establishing rules for local elections on alcohol sales. At least 35 percent of a county’s registered voters had to sign a petition in order to have a local election on alcohol sales. However, in a 1942 statewide election, voters changed the signature requirement for alcohol petitions to 15 percent. This relaxed requirement allowed numerous “wet” communities to vote themselves “dry.” Recognizing that alcohol sales remained a divisive issue, legislators in 1985 increased the signature requirement percentage to 30 percent, and again to 38 percent in 1993. The higher number of signatures required meant that counties would have a more difficult time changing their status.[6]

—The Public Policy Center of the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture Research and Extension

Text of measure

The popular name given to this measure by the attorney general's office is "The Arkansas Alcoholic Beverage Amendment."[1]

Ballot title

The ballot title given to this initiative by the attorney general's office is as follows:[1]

A proposed amendment to the Arkansas Constitution to provide that, effective July 1, 2015, the manufacture, sale, distribution and transportation of intoxicating liquors is lawful within the entire geographic area of each and every county of this state; that “intoxicating liquors” is defined for purposes of the amendment as any beverage containing more than one-half of one percent (0.5%) of alcohol by weight; that the manufacture, sale, distribution and transportation of intoxicating liquors may be regulated, but not prohibited, by the General Assembly; and that all laws which conflict with the amendment, including laws providing for a local option election (wet-dry election) to determine whether intoxicating liquors may be sold or not sold, are repealed to the extent that they conflict with the amendment.[6]



This initiative is primarily being supported by Let Arkansas Decide (LAD).[7]

The organization hired National Ballot Access for their signature gathering efforts.[8]


  • Let Arkansas Decide!
  • David A. Couch, LAD treasurer and attorney[9]
  • Linda Bowlin, LAD director
  • Denise King, LAD director
  • J. Ross Jones, LAD director
  • Jeff Crockett, LAD director
  • Malinda Brinkmeyer, Tailgaters co-owner[10]


The supporting group, Let Arkansas Decide, listed on their website multiple reasons why voters should approve Issue 4:[11]

  • It will expand freedoms in Arkansas.
  • It will create jobs in local communities.
  • It will generate more tax revenues for local governments.
  • It will make communities safer by decreasing drunk driving accidents since people won't have to travel as far to obtain alcohol.

According to a report on Issue 4 published by The Public Policy Center of the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture Research and Extension, arguments in support of Issue 4 include:[5]

What do supporters say?
  • The amendment would make alcohol regulations the same for all 75 Arkansas counties.
  • Allowing sales in previously dry counties would result in new jobs and additional revenue for those cities and counties.
  • People would not have to drive as far to buy alcohol, which could reduce the risk of drunk-driving accidents.[6]

—The Public Policy Center of the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture Research and Extension


The campaign in opposition to the initiative is being led by Let Local Communities Decide For Themselves.[12]


  • Arkansas Beverage Retailers Association
  • Citizens for Local Rights[13]
  • Pastor Revel Kidd


  • Pastor Revel Kidd from Hempstead County has opposed the legalizing of alcohol sales, saying it leads to problems for marriages and children.[10]
  • A letter from the Arkansas Beverage Retailers Association stated: "Obviously this [approval of Issue 4] would be catastrophic for county line liquor stores around the state, but it also has dire consequences for stores in currently wet counties and wet metropolitan areas. The industry in Arkansas as we have known it would be turned upside down, with the result of inviting global retailers like Walmart, Kroger, Walgreens, Target and others to enter the business at their existing locations with the inevitable impact on existing operators' sales and margins."[14]
  • According to a report on Issue 4 published by The Public Policy Center of the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture Research and Extension, arguments in opposition to Issue 4 include:[5]
What do opponents say?
  • The amendment would take away a local community’s ability to decide the issue of alcohol sales.
  • If passed, this amendment would create a dangerous situation of liquor sales being legal within 1,000 feet of a school, day care or church.
  • Alcohol has numerous negative health and social effects. Alcohol use contributes to heart and liver damage, car crashes and crime. [6]

—The Public Policy Center of the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture Research and Extension


Opponents of the measure filed a lawsuit over the petition signature deadline controversy, hoping to have the measure thrown off the ballot. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Citizens for Local Rights on September 5, 2014. The plaintiffs claim the state's petition deadline of July 7 was three days too late in order to be submitted at least four months before the election, as required by state law. Four months to the day before the November election was the Fourth of July, a national holiday. The plaintiffs also argue that the ballot title is insufficient.[15]

David Couch, an attorney who assisted Let Arkansas Decide in placing Issue 4 on the ballot, said, “In addition it has been the Secretary of State's standard practice since Amendment 7 went into effect in 1925 to roll the deadline for accepting petitions to the following business day. The Sponsor and the people of the state of Arkansas had a right to rely upon the Election Calendar and the nearly 100 year history of the Secretary of State's office in rolling the deadline until the next business day when the deadline was on a holiday.” However, opponents of the measure argued the deadline delay in light of holidays "is statutory law, not constitutional law."[16][15] The Arkansas Supreme Court heard oral arguments regarding the issue on October 9, 2014. The court ultimately ruled that the measure should appear on the ballot. Since the deadline occurred on a federal holiday, the Fourth of July, the court agreed that, based on election law, the deadline must be "the next day which is not a Saturday, Sunday or legal holiday."[17][2][18]


See also: Polls, 2014 ballot measures
  • A poll by "Talk Business & Politics" conducted in October 2014 found that 54 percent of voters opposed expanding alcohol sales. The question asked of respondents was as follows:[19]
Q: A measure will be on the ballot this November to expand alcohol sales. If it passes, it will eliminate dry counties and allow liquor sales in all 75 counties in Arkansas. If it fails, the law stays as it is. If the election were today, would you vote for or against the measure?[6]

—Talk Business & Politics

Arkansas Issue 4 (2014)
Poll Support OpposeUndecidedMargin of ErrorSample Size
Talk Business Research & Hendrix College
Note: The polls above may not reflect all polls that have been conducted in this race. Those displayed are a random sampling chosen by Ballotpedia staff. If you would like to nominate another poll for inclusion in the table, send an email to

Path to the ballot

See also: Amending the Arkansas Constitution & Laws governing the initiative process in Arkansas

The attorney general approved the fourth attempt at ballot language for the initiative in May 2014.[20] To place an initiated constitutional amendment on the ballot, petitioners are required to submit signatures equal to at least 10 percent of the total number of votes cast for the office of governor in the last gubernatorial election. Further, proponents must collect signatures equaling at least 5 percent of the previous gubernatorial votes in at least 15 of the state's counties. For example, if 1,000 people voted for governor in a county, the signatures of 50 qualified electors would be required. This means supporters were required to collect a minimum of 78,133 valid signatures by July 7, 2014.

Supporters claimed to have turned in 84,969 signatures by the deadline.[21] The secretary of state will have until August 21, 2014 to certify ballot issues for the November general election.[22] The secretary of state's office announced on July 9, 2014, that well over 84,000 signatures had been submitted. This amount of signatures means the measure has met the initial signature requirement, and while the signatures had not been verified yet, it gave supporters another 30 days to collect more signatures, in case many were invalidated.[23]

On July 18, 2014, Secretary of State Mark Martin announced that supporters were short by 17,133 signatures. However, they had until August 18, 2014, to submit additional signatures to reach the minimum requirement.[24]

Supporters claimed to have gathered more than sufficient additional signatures on August 1, 2014. David Couch, chairman of Let Arkansas Decide, expressed absolute certainty that the measure will be on the November ballot. He claimed the group was then in possession of at least 30,000 additional signatures to make up the deficit in their original filing.[25] Supporters submitted an additional 41,492 signatures by the August 18 deadline. At least 17,133 of these must be deemed valid in order to land the measure on the November ballot.[26]

On August 29, 2014, the secretary of state announced that 87,102 of the 127,265 signatures turned in were valid, and that the measure qualified for the ballot.[27]

Deadline controversy

Opponents of the initiative, Let Local Communities Decide For Themselves, have the secretary of state's office to stop accepting further petition forms from supporters. They argued that the first batch of signatures should have been filed on July 4, which would have been four months prior to the November 4 election. The states's deadline was July 7. The secretary of state's office reviewed the claim. Had the secretary of state agreed with the opposition's point and invalidated this initiative's signatures, it would also have affected the other potential initiative regarding the minimum wage, which also submitted its first batch of signatures on July 7.[28][29]

On July 22, Secretary of State Mark Martin's office defended the signature filing deadline, saying that July 7 was set as the deadline because it was the first business day after July 4, a federal holiday. In a statement, Martin's office described the practice of rolling the signature deadline forward to the next business day if the original date falls on a holiday as "standard practice since Amendment 7 went into effect in 1925." However, the office also stated they would be reviewing the law to determine if there is an issue.[30]

Let Arkansas Decide chairman David Couch pointed out that Arkansas Code Annotated 7-1-108 and Amendment 51 both state, “If an election law deadline occurs on a Saturday, Sunday, or legal holiday, the deadline shall be the next day which is not a Saturday, Sunday, or legal holiday.” However, Let Local Communities Decide for Themselves attorney Elizabeth Robben Murray argued that Amendment 51, which addresses voter registration, does not apply to initiatives or referendums.[30]

See also

External links

Additional reading


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Attorney General of Arkansas, "Opinion No. 2014-049," May 19, 2014
  2. 2.0 2.1, "Alcohol ballot initiative faces court challenge," October 11, 2014
  3. KTBS CW 21, "Mixed opinions on Arkansas statewide alcohol sales," June 17, 2014
  4. Washington Post, "Where in the United States you can’t purchase alcohol," September 2, 2014
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 The Public Policy Center of the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture Research and Extension, "AN ACT TO INCREASE THE ARKANSAS MINIMUM WAGE," accessed October 14, 2014
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 Note: This text is quoted verbatim from the original source. Any inconsistencies are attributed to the original source.
  7. Let Arkansas Decide, "Homepage," accessed September 23, 2014
  8. Hope Star, "Who is 'Let Arkansas Decide'?" June 9, 2014
  9. Arkansas Ethics Commission, " LOCAL-OPTION/BALLOT/LEGISLATIVE QUESTION COMMITTEE FILINGS: Let Arkansas Decide!" June 11, 2014
  10. 10.0 10.1 KTBS, "Mixed opinions on Arkansas statewide alcohol sales," June 17, 2014
  11. Let Arkansas Decide! "About AABA," accessed October 14, 2014
  12. Russellville Courier, "Bid to end dry counties in Arkansas to hit ballot," August 29, 2014
  13. Arkansas Business, "Groups Argue Over Alcohol Measure on Arkansas ballot," September 26, 2014
  14. ABC 7 KATV, "Beverage retailers group trying to keep state alcohol sales off the ballot," July 22, 2014
  15. 15.0 15.1 Chron, "Lawsuit seeks to toss Arkansas alcohol proposal," September 5, 2014
  16. Hope Star, "Liquor suit draws intervenors," September 11, 2014
  17. Arkansas Online, "Oral arguments set over alcohol sales measure," September 11, 2014
  18. ABC 7 KATV, "Ark. Supreme Court denies challenge to statewide alcohol ballot initiative," accessed October 16, 2014
  19. UALR Public Radio, "Poll On Arkansas Ballot Issues Shows Mixed Results," OCtober 19, 2014
  20. Talks Business & Politics, "AG McDaniel Approves Ballot Title For All Wet Counties," May 19, 2014
  21. The Bellingham Herald, "Minimum wage, alcohol sales petitions submitted," July 7, 2014
  22. Arkansas Secretary of State, "2013-14 Initiatives and Referenda: Facts and Information for the 2014 General Election," 2014
  23. Arkansas News, "Petition on statewide alcohol sales meets initial signature count," July 9, 2014
  24. Associated Press, "Arkansas alcohol, minimum wage ballot measures fall short of signatures; given 30 more days," July 18, 2014
  25. Arkansas News Bureau, "Sponsor of alcohol measure ‘100 percent’ sure Arkansas will go wet," August 3, 2014
  26. THV 11, "Group submits petitions to expand alcohol sales," August 15, 2014
  27. Arkansas Business, "Alcohol Amendment Will Be on November Ballot," August 29, 2014
  28. Associated Press, "Group Asks State To Block Alcohol Measure, Claims Deadline Missed," July 21, 2014
  29. Times Record, "Election 2014: Opponents Of Statewide Alcohol Sales Say Supporters Missed Deadline," July 21, 2014
  30. 30.0 30.1 Times Record, "Election 2014: Secretary Of State Defends Filing Deadline For Petitions," July 22, 2014