Saturday, March 18, 2017

Turnout Light In Early Voting For Watkinsville Special Election On Sunday Alcohol Sales

63 Ballots Cast

Only 63 of Watkinsville’s 2,117 eligible voters have participated in the three weeks of early voting leading up to Tuesday’s election on whether Sunday sales of alcohol should be allowed at the city’s restaurants and convenience stores.

The turnout of less than 3 percent of the city’s voters so far suggests that only a small number of the city’s voters will decide the issue.

In the March 17, 2015, special election in the city on liquor by the drink, only 265 voters cast a ballot, representing just a little more than 15 percent of the 1,759 registered voters. Positive votes were cast by 216 of those voters.

Voting on Sunday sales will take place from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesday at the city’s two precincts, City Hall and Annex.

Voters are being asked to vote separately on whether to authorize the Watkinsville City Council to pass ordinances allowing for the sale of beer and wine in convenience stores on Sundays and allowing the sale of beer, wine and alcoholic drinks in the city’s restaurants on Sundays.

Catching Up With County

The Watkinsville City Council opted not to align its vote on Sunday sales with that of the county, which voted on Nov. 8 on the issue.

Special Election Sign For Early Voting

Voters across the county approved Sunday sales of alcohol by the drink and Sunday package sales of beer and wine, with 68.2 percent approving each of the two separate ballot questions, according to final certified results.

The Oconee County Board of Commissioners voted in early December to change its alcohol ordinances, making it possible for restaurants, groceries and convenience stores not in one of the county’s four cities to engage in Sunday sales as early as Dec. 11.

Voters in Watkinsville as well as in the county’s other three cities voted on Sunday sales in the county-wide election, but county precinct lines do not correspond with city boundaries and votes were not tabulated separately for voters in any of the cities.

The Watkinsville City Council voted on Jan. 18 to put the issue on the ballot in a special city election, but the earliest date possible for the election was March 21.

Certification Meeting

At the Jan. 18 meeting of the City Council, Mayor Charles Ivie said the Council was willing to hold a called meeting to pass a revision of its ordinance as soon as the election results have been certified.

The Oconee County Board of Elections and Registration is scheduled to meet at 3 p.m. on March 24 to certify the results.

Pat Hayes, director and chair of the Board of Elections and Registration, told me in an email message after early voting ended on Friday that 62 persons had cast a ballot in-person and 1 person had cast a ballot by mail.

Watkinsville’s March 2015 special election allowing the sale of liquor by the drink in its restaurants also followed a county-wide vote on liquor-by-the-drink sales in the unincorporated parts of the county in November of 2014.

The city’s restaurants had to wait the extra time to be allowed to sell mixed drinks in addition to beer and wine.

None of the other three cities in the county–Bishop, Bogart and North High Shoals–has a restaurant.

Bogart does allow for the sale of alcoholic beverages in convenience stores but has not authorized Sunday sales.


I did not attend the Jan. 18 meeting of the Watkinsville City Council, but Penny Mills did attend and made a video of the entire meeting.

That video is below.

The discussion of the Sunday sales referendum begins at 33:50 in the video.

Only Council member Connie Massey voted against putting the issues on the ballot.

OCO: Watkinsville Council 1 18 2017 from Lee Becker on Vimeo.

I have created a channel on the Oconee County Observations Vimeo site containing video of Watkinsville City Council Meetings.


Zippity said...

This used to be such a major issue in this county. Interesting that it has changed so dramatically in a relatively short period of time. I suspect people are uninterested as they assume it will pass since it passed the rest of the county so easily. Wonder if this will be the case if so few people vote.

Jonathan Wallace said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jonathan Wallace said...

Is there a way to quickly determine if one is eligible to vote in this special election?

Lee Becker said...

You can go to the Board of Elections and Registration page on the county web site and, from there, to the Secretary of State site. That will give you information on your district. Watkinsville city residents make up part of the City Hall and Annex precincts.
You also can call the Board of Elections and Registration for assistance.