May 22, 2013 — Grayson voters last went to the polls in a local option election 42 years ago on Tuesday, July 2, 1971, according to official records in the office of Carter County Clerk Mike Johnston.
In fact, voters in both Grayson and Olive Hill decided that day to remain “dry” in terms of legal sale of alcoholic beverages as the entire county had been since 1937.
In Grayson, it was almost a 3-1 margin of victory for “dry” forces with 751 voters saying “no” to legal sales while only 261 voted “yes”.
The tally was closer in Olive Hill where 296 voters cast “no” ballots against 174 marked “yes”.
Two generations later, Grayson voters will go to the polls on Tuesday, June 11, to cast “yes” or “no” ballots on a single question:
“Are you in favor of the sale of alcoholic beverages in Grayson?”
It will be the second time in five years that any voters in Carter County have participated in a local option election.
On Sept. 30, 2008, voters in the Iron Hill precinct near Carter City voted 78 to 34 to allow Rock Springs Vineyard and Winery to sell wine on its premises under a special state law.
Rock Springs is licensed as a small farm winery.
Carter, Rowan and Letcher are the only counties in East Kentucky with wineries licensed to sell their own products.
Kentucky also permits local option elections in precincts in “dry” cities and counties that have golf courses within their boundaries.
Greenup is the only county east of Lexington with a golf course licensed to sell alcoholic beverages. That is Bellefonte Country Club.
Following the end of Prohibition in 1933, Carter County voters favored legal alcohol sales by a vote of 2,445 to 1,721.
That changed four years later when county voters switched the county back to “dry” on a tally of 2,581 to 2,128.
The first public campaign material in Grayson’s upcoming local option election appeared last week.
A group calling itself “Citizens for Positive Progress” sponsored half-page ads on behalf of the “dry” side in the Journal-Times and another local publication.
Keith Bays, who organized the petition drive to put local option on the ballot, said at the time that he and others supporting a “wet” vote have no plans at present to form a campaign organization.
Kentucky law requires any group of at least three persons which spends $1,000 or more to influence the outcome of an election must register with the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance.
Known legally as an “issues committee”, such a group must compile and submit records of campaign contributions of $100 or more and must report all expenses, just like an individual running for elective office.
Of Kentucky’s 120 counties, statistics compiled three months ago listed 37 counties as “dry”, 33 as “wet” and 50 as “moist” in that they have cities or individual precincts where alcoholic beverages may be sold legally.
By virtue of the legal winery sales at Iron Hill, Carter County is considered “moist”.
Regardless of the outcome on June 11, the issue cannot go back on the ballot for at least three years, according to state law.
Johnston said this week that his office will be publishing and posting notices to remind voters than only legal residents of the City of Grayson are eligible to vote in the June 11 special election.
Keith Kappes can be reached at email@example.com or by telephone at 800-247-6142.