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Alabama cities, counties prepare for upcoming wet/dry electionscomment (0)

November 1, 2012

By Julie Payne

Alabama cities, counties prepare for upcoming wet/dry elections

Voting for the U.S. president is on many people’s minds as the general election draws near, but for some areas of Alabama, Nov. 6 also marks the day when several wet/dry elections take place in the state.

Included in upcoming wet/dry elections are the cities of Hartselle and Boaz, as well as Blount and Randolph counties, according to known information collected by Alabama Citizens Action Program (ALCAP). There also will be a referendum to determine whether Sunday alcohol sales will be allowed in Dallas County.

Joe Godfrey, executive director of ALCAP, encouraged voters in the state’s affected areas to exercise their right to vote against legalizing alcohol sales. If people do not vote against legalizing the sales, he added, the votes of those advocating to go wet will be heard.

Larry Gipson, pastor of First Baptist Church, Oneonta, is chairman of the 501(c)(4) organization Keep Blount County Special, which was organized several years ago. 

Blount County maintained its “dry” status by a vote four years ago with a percentage margin of 60–40. “This time, when we found out they [alcohol sales proponents] were trying to get signatures … we got back together … to fight again,” Gipson said.

“I could spend all day speaking about [the] negative[s] of alcohol,” he added. 

“There’s nothing positive attached to alcohol when you look at 79,000 deaths attributed to alcohol use” in the U.S. each year.

While speaking about the negative effects of alcohol is easy for Gipson, standing up for his position has not always been as simple. He said he has experienced written and verbal attacks from some opposed to his stance.  

Gipson said when taking a stand, opposition is expected. He noted three ways he believes Christians against legalizing the sale of alcohol should react to those who may oppose them: with compassion, courage and conviction.

Area Baptists in Boaz also are taking a stand against legalizing the sale of alcohol. According to Randall Stoner, director of missions for Marshall Baptist Association, the association is surrounded by counties that have voted to go wet. “We’re trying to stand on the Word and stand on our principles that this is not a good thing for the citizens of Boaz,” he said.

The association has purchased a half-page ad in the local paper encouraging people to vote Nov. 6. In addition, Stoner noted the city’s ministerial association, in coordination with other denominations in the area, is opposed to legalizing alcohol sales. Yard signs that advocate voting no on Nov. 6 are being used by members of First Baptist Church, Boaz, as well as members from several other Baptist churches and denominations in the city.

Boaz residents voted to stay dry two years ago, the last time the issue was on the ballot. According to the Sand Mountain Reporter, 55 percent of Boaz voters rejected legalizing alcohol sales in 2010.

And while the negative physical impacts of alcohol are to be considered when this issue comes up for a vote Nov. 6, there are other factors to consider as well, say those opposed to legalizing its sale. 

According to ALCAP, for every $1 in revenue received from the sale of alcoholic beverages, Alabamians spend about $15 in social costs. Godfrey said that in 2006, the U.S. spent $223.5 billion in tackling alcohol-related problems. That figure includes items such as counseling, hospitals and emergency vehicles — all the things associated with “cleaning up the mess” alcohol leaves behind, Godfrey said.

Godfrey noted ALCAP’s website is full of data related to wet/dry issues. A link on ALCAP’s home page (www.alcap.com) titled “Wet/Dry Issues” is devoted specifically to the topic. “Go to that page and you will find all kinds of links with PDF files,” Godfrey said. There are even instructions on how to organize for a local option election to fight legalizing alcohol sales and various statistical information and resource materials for county and municipality use.

In addition to consulting with counties and municipalities that are fighting wet/dry elections, Godfrey said ALCAP also continues to lobby the Alabama Legislature to fight the passage of alcohol-liberalization bills. 

Gipson said voters will have to decide what is right and wrong, pray and ask God to direct them on how to vote. “When all is said and done we’re going to continue to serve and do what we’re supposed to,” he said.

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