Wet Suit Against City Now Down To: Did Beer, Wine Backers Gather Enough Signatures?

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While package stores keep on feeling the "significant impact" of the election that opened up beer and wine sales citywide, lawyers for the city are one step closer to beating back that legal challenge over the petitions that got the issue on the ballot back in November.

Today at the George Allen Courts Building, District Judge Laurine Blake granted a motion from the city that would limit the trial scheduled for September to decide only whether there were enough valid signatures on the petitions to trigger the local option election.

Leland de la Garza, one of the attorneys trying to overturn the referendum, argued in court this morning that whether or not there are enough valid signatures on the petitions, the election wasn't properly called in the first place. He and Andy Siegel have repeatedly contended that City Secretary Deborah Watkins didn't certify the signatures properly. "The consequences of the lack of certification is the invalidation of the election," de la Garza said.

But Assistant City Attorney Charles Estee said that even if the signatures weren't certified according to the letter of the election code, the law doesn't suggest scrapping the election results. "Its purpose is not to undo the will of the people because of some phantom technicality," he said.

Judge Blake agreed, granting the city's motion for partial summary judgment and limiting the question to whether Keep the Dollars in Dallas's petitions really did have enough valid signatures. From the beginning, the Kroger-backed initiative maintained that it not only got the number of signatures needed, but far more than the 68,846 required by law.

"I'm of the opinion that the city secretary was not required to have a specific number" of signatures, she said. "However, when the plaintiff requested a specific count, that has to mean something."

Now both sides have till September 12 -- when the final hearing's set -- to work out that one question: whether there were enough valid signatures on the petitions after all.

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