Nearly 1,000 names being verified on city liquor petition
Wednesday, February 20, 2013 12:00 AM
Officials are in the process of verifying nearly 1,000 names on a petition to ensure that they are registered voters in an effort to call for a vote on the issue of liquor sales in the city of Philadelphia.
Jeremy Chalmers, spokesperson for Philadelphia For a Vote, said that while he believes the group has the necessary signatures, the petition wouldn't be presented to the Mayor and Board of Aldermen until all are verified.
The petition requires the signatures of at least 20 percent of the duly qualified voters in the city.
Last year, the state Legislature passed a law which allows citizens in municipalities with populations of at least 5,000 to present a petition to a city board, calling for a vote on the alcohol issue.
Should an election be ordered, the new law outlines the wording that would appear on the ballot: "For the legal sale of alcoholic liquors" or "Against the legal sale of alcoholic liquors."
With just under 5,000 registered voters in the city, Chalmers said the group needed about 1,000 names before presenting the petition to the Mayor and Board of Aldermen.
He said extra signatures were being solicited in case some non-registered voters signed the petition.
Recently, voters in Corinth overwhelmingly approved the sale of liquor and wine in the first election under the new state law.
"We just want to give the citizens a choice," Chalmers said during a petition signing party Saturday night at 424 Blues Café on Beacon Street.
He said the petition is only asking to allow the citizens to vote on the legalization of liquor sales.
The Mayor and Board of Aldermen can order an election upon the presentation and verification of a petition.
Thirty days' notice must be given to qualified electors of the proposed election.
The Philadelphia For a Vote group hopes to have the issue on the ballot during the May city primaries.
Before the signing party on Saturday, the group needed 200 signatures. At 7 p.m., the start of the event, that number had dwindled to 120. By 8:45, they were still 100 short.
"There weren't as many here as expected," said Chalmers on the number of attendees, which included about 60 people.
Chalmers noted that most of those in attendance had already signed the petition and were supportive of the measure.
If voters approve the sale of liquor here, it would be up to the Mayor and Board of Aldermen to set guidelines.
The board could restrict the sale to restaurants and/or allow it to be sold in package stores.
"I do not believe that coming out from under the archaic dry laws will cause an increase in alcohol consumption in Philadelphia," Chalmers said earlier.
"According to the state Department of Revenue, when a county turns wet it doesn't necessarily mean Mississippi as a whole sees an increase in revenue. It is more about spreading the wealth between municipalities."
Under Senate Bill 2497, other residents of the county would not have a vote.
The old law required liquor votes to be countywide even though liquor can be sold only within municipal boundaries.