This is the first of a three-part story covering the historical steps of a movement to change the the liquor license rules in three “dry” townships in Chester County, Pennsylvania.
Giant Food, a Carlisle, PA-based supermarket chain, with store locations in East Goshen, Thornbury, and Westtown townships are collecting signatures on a petition to get a referendum on the May 15 ballot that would permit the grocery stores to acquire licenses from the Liquor Control Board. This is historical for the three “dry” townships. Such a move would mean the sale of wine and beer in the stores, the first time in more than 75 years. While the referendum would allow Giant to sell beer and wine, which seems convenient for many, it would also allow other retailers to obtain a liquor license. A move, some residents say, would open Pandora’s box.
About the Petition Drive
This petition drive was initiated by Giant Food Stores, and at this time, the three townships’ Board of Supervisors are not taking any official position on the matter. If you are interested in signing the petition, you will have until Tuesday, March 6 – the last day to circulate and file petition. All three stores, in the three townships, have tables set up at the entrances inside the stores. If you do sign a petition, make sure to sign the correct one – sign the petition ONLY for the township you reside. You can only sign one petition. Make sure to sign it correctly. You will need to sign the petition based on your registered full name. You have to be a registered voter, which means, even if you are under the age of 21 years, you can sign the petition.*
The Three Store Locations:
- East Goshen Township
1375 Boot Rd, West Chester, PA 19380
- Thornbury Township
1393 Dilworthtown Rd, West Chester, PA 19382
- Westtown Township:
1502 West Chester Pike, West Chester, PA 19382
Each of the stores will need to collect at least 25% of the highest vote cast for any office in that townships in the preceding General Election. The preceding election, this past November was not a General Election but instead was a “Municipal Election.” The General Election, on November 8, 2016.
Pennsylvania Statutes Title 47 P.S. Liquor § 4-472:
Whenever electors equal to at least twenty-five per centum of the highest vote cast for any office in the municipality or part of a split municipality at the last preceding general election shall file a petition with the county board of elections of the county for a referendum on the question of granting any of said classes of licenses or the establishment of Pennsylvania liquor stores, the said county board of elections shall cause a question to be placed on the ballots or on the voting machine board and submitted at any election.
Types of Elections
There are three types of elections: Municipal, General, and Primary elections:
- The Municipal Election is held in odd-numbered years on the first Tuesday after the first Monday of November.
- The General Election is held in even-numbered years, on the first Tuesday after the first Monday of November.
- The Primary Election in each even-numbered year is called the General Primary and is held on the third Tuesday of May, except in Presidential years when it is held on the fourth Tuesday of April. And the Primary Election in each odd-numbered year is called the Municipal Primary and is held on the third Tuesday of May.
Therefore, based on the number of votes cast from the General Election, on November 8, 2016, we have calculated the following signatures needed on the petitions:
East Goshen Township:
2868 Best Case (Based on an average of 80% turnout)
3586 Worst Case (Based on 100% turnout)
505 Best Case
631 Worst Case
1575 Best Case
1969 Worst Case
The numbers above are rough approximations and should not be used as a valid count. However, whenever collecting signatures on petitions, a good rule of thumb is to collect more signatures than what is required because not every signature collected will be valid.
Examination of the Petitions
The county Board of Elections will have a reasonable time to examine the petitions. A petition will be rejected if it contain material errors or defects apparent on its face, if it contains material alterations made after signing, or if it does not contain a sufficient number of signatures.
Any and all rejected petition must be returned to the circulator.
The county Board of Elections would then meet, during a public meeting, to determine either to accept or reject remaining petitions.
Challenges of the Petitions
Any objections to referendum petitions must be filed with the Court of Common Pleas within seven days after the last day for filing the petitions. (As defined in 25 P.S. 2937; Pennsylvania Election Code, Section 977)
If the petitions are approved, and there are no challenges, the referendum question will be added to the ballots, and on May 15 the voters will have their finial say.
Our next installments will cover the details of the logistics of the sale of wine and beer in the stores, local township Ordinance and policies, and we will finish with reviewing the pros and cons of the potential changes with regards to liquor sales in these three townships.
* The Twenty-sixth Amendment (Amendment XXVI) to the United States Constitution prohibits the states and the federal government from using age as a reason for denying the right to vote to citizens of the United States who are at least eighteen years old.