WHITLEY CITY — [UPDATE: Scottie Morrow has told the Record that he is seeking a recanvass but a date has not yet been set.]
Nearly 30 years ago, a then-record number of voters turned out to keep McCreary County dry by a 3-1 margin.
Yesterday [Aug. 28], more than 5,000 McCreary Countians cast their ballots and, while the county will stay dry for the time being, the margin was much smaller.
“Folks, I’ll tell you…this sucker’s close,” McCreary County Clerk Eric Haynes told the crowd gathered in the district courtroom before announcing that a mere 47 votes separated the dry votes (2,532) and wet votes (2,485).
As a matter of fact, for much of the evening it looked as if the wet (or Yes) votes would carry through, with half of the county’s 18 precincts approving the sale of alcoholic beverages.
Both Whitley City and Stearns voted in favor of alcohol sales.
It was the populous precinct of East Pine Knot, which voted “No” by a margin of 409 to 285, that turned the tide permanently in favor of staying dry.
Election officials kept their opinion on the final tally to themselves, but expressed relief that the election was over.
“It’s been a tough day,” Haynes commented as he and his staff hauled their equipment out of the courtroom.
Still the election went fairly smoothly, with polls closing at 6 p.m. and results available in just over an hour.
McCreary County Sheriff Gus Skinner said that his department had been prepared for the worst but were pleased that no disturbances were reported.
“I’m proud of the citizens of McCreary County,” he said.
As both sides campaigned, rhetoric became heated — particularly through social media. Scottie Morrow, who spearheaded the petition to get the issue on the ballot, told The Record that he was surprised at how polarizing the issue could be.
“There are organi-zations out there that shouldn’t be in politics,” he said.
Morrow added that he and his supporters “will be looking at our options” but declined to comment on whether that meant a recanvass of this election or future petitioning either countywide or by precinct.
Fellow supporter Jeff Bryant said that he was both relieved and sad at the outcome. As a pastor, he shares the concerns of dry supporters but came out in support of legalized alcohol sales to increase funding for law enforcement and address illegal sales.
“I do feel that this election brought to light the problem we have with bootleggers,” Bryant said. “I want to thank everyone who voted and expressed their opinion.”
While several dry supporters expressed surprise at how close the margin was, William Kilby noted that Williamsburg went wet by just 14 votes.
“47 or 4,700…we’re just tickled for the win,” Kilby said. “We’re truly grateful that in the times we live in, voters took their stand. I feel this is a victory for McCreary County, not a loss.”
Kilby is a member of Citizens for a Secure McCreary County, which led the campaign to vote no. While they will soon dissolved as a state-registered political issues committee, vice chair Mark Sewell said that the group has planned to continue and address drug abuse in the county.