FORT SMITH A judge in western Arkansas is considering whether a vote that legalized alcohol sales in Barling should be thrown out.
City voters approved the measure 1,081 to 544 on Nov. 6 but opponents are challenging it, saying that some Sebastian County voters should have been allowed to cast ballots.
In the lawsuit, attorney Erik Danielson argued that because the entire southern district of the county voted to go “dry” in 1944, state law requires the entire district to vote on whether a single city can allow liquor sales. Danielson represents 21 Barling residents who filed suit Nov. 20.
The lawsuit cites a 1947 Supreme Court decision in its argument that the county, which includes Fort Smith, should have voted on the issue.
Prosecuting Attorney Dan Shue, who represents the county election commission, said the lawsuit should be dismissed because it didn’t name the county clerk or the city of Barling as defendants — only the election commission.
The Southwest Times Record reported that Circuit Court Judge Steve Tabor asked both sides Monday to submit legal briefs within a week before he will issue a ruling. He denied Shue’s request to dismiss the lawsuit, saying Danielson’s complaint is contesting the election but seeking to void the result, so the commission is the appropriate defendant.
Both sides agreed at Monday’s hearing that the liquor-sale question was submitted to the entire southern district in 1944, but only to Barling voters on Nov. 6.
Danielson told Tabor that the commission disenfranchised all voters in the southern district of Sebastian County outside of Barling when it placed the item on the ballot, which constitutes a fraud, and resulted in an “improper and illegal” election.
Tabor said he hopes to rule soon on whether the election results should stand.