Registered voters in three areas of Sevier County will decide this November if they want grocery stores in their community to sell wine. However, some voters may be confused about whether the wine in grocery stores referendum is on their ballot and how the voting process will work, especially for Property Rights Voters.
Gov. Bill Haslam signed the wine in grocery stores bill into law in March 2014. It allows communities that already allow liquor by the drink or retail liquor stores to hold a referendum to decide if wine should be sold in retail food stores.
To get the wine in grocery stores referendum on the ballot, a petition signed by a number of Registered Voters equaling 10% of voters in that jurisdiction who voted in the last gubernatorial election must be submitted to the county election commission. Petitions for Sevierville, Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg have met the requirements, so each city will have a wine referendum on the November election ballot. If a referendum passes, grocery stores could start selling wine July 1, 2016.
Who can vote on the wine in grocery stores referendum in the November 4 election?
Only Registered Voters who reside inside the city limits of Sevierville, Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg will see the wine in grocery stores referendum on their General Election Ballot. Note that voters may have a Sevierville or other city mailing address, but actually reside outside the city limits and will not have the wine referendum on their ballot. Voters must be registered to vote at least 30 days prior to an election (Oct. 6, 2014 is the deadline to register to vote in the Nov. 4 Election).
Registered Property Rights Voters who own real property inside the city limits of Sevierville, Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg can also vote on the wine in grocery stores referendum. The Charters for all three cities give people who reside within the state of Tennessee and own real property inside the city limits to vote in municipal elections and on municipal referendums. To do so, the eligible property owner must fill out an application for property registration and file a certified copy of the property deed with their name on it with the Sevier County Election Commission no later than 30 days before an election (Oct. 6, 2014 is the deadline for the Nov. 4 Election). For real property owned by more than one person, only two registered voters per property are allowed. Property Rights voters receive a separate Property Registration Card in the mail once they have registered their property.
The voting process for the wine in grocery stores referendum:
The wine in grocery stores referendum will be part of the the General Election Ballot on the voting machine of Registered Voters who reside inside the city limits of Sevierville, Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg when they vote at the polling place listed on their Voter Registration Card. On Election Day, the Sevier County Election Commission will have city residents eligible to vote on the wine referendum listed on a separate roster and will train certain poll workers to handle voters on that roster.
Registered Property Rights Voters will vote on the wine in grocery stores referendum by paper ballot at the polling place for city elections that is listed on their Property Registration Card. The Sevier County Election Commission will provide a roster of Registered Property Rights Voters at these polling locations and individualize poll worker training specifically for facilitating the paper ballot voting process to avoid any confusion.
- Gatlinburg – American Legion Hall #202 at 1222 E. Parkway, Gatlinburg, TN
- Pigeon Forge – Pigeon Forge City Hall at 225 Pine Mountain Road, Pigeon Forge, TN
- Sevierville – Sevierville Civic Center at 200 Gary Wade Blvd, Sevierville, TN
For example this means that on Election Day, Registered Voters who live in Sevier County but outside the city limits, who also have Registered Property Rights voting in one or more of the cities, must go to their polling place to vote the General Election Ballot and then travel to each of the city election polling places where they have registered property to vote the wine in grocery stores referendum.
The Sevier County Election Commission advises voters can avoid confusion and unnecessary travel simply by Early Voting. Sevier County has one of the longest Early Voting periods and convenient locations in both Seymour and Sevierville.
“As always we encourage everyone to come and Early Vote,” said Ed Kuncitis, Sevier County’s interim administrator of elections. “Voters that have property and county voting will be able to have everything in one location. These voters will vote their Property Rights on a paper ballot first and then vote on the machines for the ballot for where they reside.”
Citizens with questions about voting, registering to vote, property rights voting, wine in grocery stores referendum or other election questions should contact the Sevier County Election Commission at (865) 453-6985 or visit the office at 1154 Dolly Parton Parkway in Sevierville.