It has been the talk of the town for months now. The “Moist Election” has come to pass and the unofficial vote tally Tuesday night was yes-1,298 and no-1,179 — a difference of 119 votes.
Middlesboro resident Angie Brooks says she voted “yes” because she thinks if the vote passed, it could help the town to grow.
“I think our town can grow and (it could) bring larger restaurants, more jobs and more revenue,” said Brooks. “It may even cut down on people driving to other states (and then) driving back into town, drinking in their vehicles.”
Broooks says voting yes or no is not going to stop people who abuse alcohol, and she feels there is more of a drug issue in Middlesboro as opposed to alcohol.
Middlesboro resident Shannon Daniels said she felt passionately about the election because she knows what it is like to be affected by addiction, and she believed if the vote passes, it will further hinder local children chances to become productive citizens.
“I believe we have enough to deal with, with drugs and poverty making it hard for our children to become productive citizens,” said Daniels. “If we don’t have alcohol, they might have a little bit better chance.”
Daniels, who is raising two children, says she voted “no” for their future.
Though this has been on ongoing point of contention in the community for generations, Middlesboro has not been alone in debating this issue. Twenty-eight other cities and three counties have voted in recent years to approve “moist” sales of alcohol, including Pineville in 2005.
Barbourville, Berea and communities in Oldham County, among others, are seeing these petition drives and votes. The liquor-by-the-drink vote has been trending in Tennessee of late as well, with around 80 communities voting in favor of the referendum.
Tazewell, Tennessee, passed a liquor-by-the-drink referendum in November of last year which allows their restaurants to now sell alcohol by the drink. In a 3-to-2 split decision, the Harrogate Board of Mayor and Alderman recently passed the second reading of an ordinance allowing Sunday beer sales.
The Bell County Tourism Board elected to support the petition as did many in the community from the business sector and the private, but their was also great opposition. Signs supporting both sides have been adorning lawns all about town.
A petition had been launched in April in Middlesboro to put this “moist vote” on the ballot. The petition received the signatures of 775 citizens as was required to put the issue on the ballot based on 25 percent of those who voted in the last election within the city limits, but due to an error with the petitions cited Kentucky Revised Statute it was voided and the process started over again.
The petitions statute was changed to the correct one and new signatures collected. The new petition was resubmitted by June 19. Absentee voting began on Aug. 12.
The last time an effort like this was made in the area was in the 1960s and it did not have the option of moist, only full wet.
Reach Reina P. Cunningham at 606-302-9091 or on Twitter @ReinaDailyNews or William Tribell at (606) 302-9100 or on Twitter @wtribellmdn