After nearly 80 years of prohibition, Barbourville voters have spoken. Their answer was “Yes” to alcohol sales.
“Everybody that worked for Team Yes needs a congratulatory hand tonight,” said Dr. Bob Dunaway, who submitted the original petition for a special election on Oct. 26. “I think we did it well. I think we did it the right way, and I’m proud of the way we did it so far.” Others were not so sure. “We’re very disappointed. Everybody lifted a little, it just wasn’t enough to bring us victory this time,” said Reverend Leonard Lester, who had a strong voice in the Vote No campaign. “When you’re trying to protect what you love, you can’t give up, so we’ll be back in three years.”
“I’m excited about the outcome,” said Tamara Sanborn, a member of Barbourville’s Tourism Commission. “Alcohol is already here. The bigger issue is the drug problem that we have. I just want a great future for my children. I want my daughter to want to move back home from Lexington. Now, there is more opportunity here, and I think it’s going to be a big plus for our economy.”
A total of 931 votes were cast. “Yes” voters won by a margin of 65 votes. Four hundred ninety-eight voted in favor of alcohol sales and 433 voted against. Thirty-three percent of city residents who were eligible cast a vote.
“We actually had a better turnout than I expected,” said Barbourville Mayor David Thompson. The issue stirred many people to action. Union College Student Mikalya Durham cast her first vote ever in Tuesday’s election and became the first in her family to vote since the Nixon administration.
“This is an issue that everyone should vote on. It impacts our whole community,” said Durham. “To have to your opinion heard… you have to vote.”
So, what does this really mean for Barbourville?
“It will definitely put money into the town,” said Mayor Thompson. “From what I know, based on research found by myself and staff, is that the tax money collected from alcohol sales will go to the police department. But, that’s money that the town itself doesn’t have to put into the department.”
The topic of alcohol sales has long been controversial in Knox County. A special election was also held back in February 2012, to decide if alcohol sales would be permitted within the city. Voters then rejected that choice with 591 votes against, to 484 votes in favor.
This time around, the issue was equally heated as it made its way to social media. Facebook pages were made representing both sides, and Yes votes appeared to outnumber those opposed. Six hundred eighty-eight people joined the Vote Yes, while 449 represented the Vote No campaign.
In addition, an online poll conducted by The Mountain Advocate, showed 319 out of 501 to be in favor of alcohol sales.
Overall the election ran smoothly.
“It was a quiet and peaceful,” said election official Bobby Carmack. “Everything went alright.”
Election officers Karen Frazier and Koral Garland described the voting at Jessie D. Lay elementary as steady. “We maybe went 20 minutes all day without having at least someone in line.”
The night was not without any complications, however.
As the polls closed at G. R. Hampton, and the election officials attempted to print out the final numbers, they discovered a problem. A faulty printer prevented them from outputting the official results. After several attempts to reconnect power, Knox County Sheriff Mike Smith brought a new power cord. Officials were still unable to print the results. Then, an official technician was called to bring a new printer. Finally, 30 minutes after the polls closed, the results were in. Thirty-two in favor, 19 against for G. R. Hampton.
“I would like to thank my staff, the election officers and the Board of Elections,” said Knox County Clerk Mike Corey. “They did an excellent job at keeping credibility throughout the election process.”