Benton County Wet/Dry Question On Track For November Ballot

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A Benton County group largely funded by two Walton heirs appears it has been successful in gathering enough valid signatures to put a question on the Nov. 6 ballot allowing retail alcohol sales in the county, an official said.

“I think we’ll see it on the November ballot,” Dana Ferguson, county election supervisor, said Tuesday.

The group Keep Dollars in Benton County, which is pushing for alcohol sales in the county, submitted 56,000 signatures to county officials on Thursday.

By 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, county workers had checked the authenticity of 19,958 signatures, Ferguson said. Of those, 16,057, or 80.5 percent were valid, she said. Only 3,794 were invalid.

Twelve full-time employees and three part-time workers are matching the signatures against state voter registration lists, said Tena O’Brien, county clerk.

The county has until 4:30 p.m. Monday to validate the signatures. Anyone wanting to question the validity of the signatures must then file a challenge in Circuit Court by Aug. 2, Ferguson said.

Keep Dollars in Benton County needed 41,171 signatures by Aug. 8, but turned them in early to they would have time to gather more signatures if enough are deemed invalid to put the effort in jeopardy,

Meanwhile, Tom and Steuart Walton each contributed another $15,000 in June to Keep Dollars in Benton County, according to an Arkansas Ethics Commission financial report filed Monday.

The Walton heirs both contributed $15,000 on June 4, bringing their total contributions to Keep Dollars in Benton County to $180,000 each. They were the only contributors in June.

Of the $410,000 that Keep Dollars in Benton County has raised, $360,000 has come from Tom and Steuart Walton, records show.

Also on June 4, Keep Dollars in Benton County paid $43,269.32 to National Ballot Access, the Lawrenceville, Ga., company paid to gather signatures for Keep Dollars in Benton County. Keep Dollars in Benton County paid Arvest Bank $118.65 on June 4 for banking services. After expenditures, the group had $1,685.93 in the bank at the end of June.