Suit Seeks to Put Stopper on Dallas Wet/Dry Vote

Opponents of a Nov. 2 referendum that could eliminate dry areas in Dallas have filed a lawsuit to stop the public vote.

The opposition claims the petition drive that force the referendum was flawed and that alcohol sales must be decided in individual neighborhoods, not by a citywide vote.

"You have to make sure that there are enough valid signatures on the petition, and you have to make sure that you respect the historically dry areas of the city or the state," opposition attorney Andrew Siegel said. "Neither of those were done here."

Supporters of the change include Kroger and other large retail chains. The companies circulated a petition that included more than 108,000 signatures, far more than the 65,000 or so needed to put the measure on the ballot.

But Siegel said opponents hired an expert who found that too few of the signatures were registered voters.

"We hired the best guy we knew to come in and grade our paper before we went to the courthouse, and there’s no question in his mind that the city failed," he said.

Siegel also said a citywide election is not the proper way to change dry restrictions.

"What you have to do is have separate elections," he said. "And so the town of Preston Hollow that in ‘44 voted themselves dry, they have to decide they want to reverse their area."

The Dallas city secretary certified the petition as having enough valid signatures, and the city attorney reviewed the law before the City Council scheduled the election at a June 23 meeting.

Mary Woodlief of the support campaign called “Keep The Dollars In Dallas” issued a statement in response to the opposition lawsuit.

"It is no surprise that attorneys representing the liquor lobby would attempt to use legal maneuvers to prevent voters from deciding this important issue," the statement said. "Trying to discredit petition-gathering companies and signatures is a common, yet disappointing, tactic often used by opposition groups when they are trying to obstruct the democratic process."

A court will decide which interpretation of the law is correct. Siegel said a ruling could come in the next few weeks.

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