Don’t start popping the corks just yet.

The election to turn dry Payne Springs wet won’t take place as quickly as its advocates had hoped.

County officials were misinformed about state election liquor laws and jumped the gun on calling the election.

Therefore, those in support of the “off-premise consumption” petition, will have to wait until the general election in November for the issue to be decided.

Athens attorney Paul H. Guillotte, representing the Pastors Coalition of Payne Springs, came to commissioners court Monday and passed out what amounted to a primer on the state election code concerning local option liquor elections.

Specifically, his handout said the May 13 election to decide the issue violated state law. He then provided the law to prove it.

The commissioners decided they wanted to wait a week to make a decision because none had seen the document until Guillotte presented it in court Monday. So no action was taken.

Nevertheless the court’s options are severely restricted, and the May 13 liquor election in Payne Springs won’t happen.

Instead, it’ll appears it will have to happen in November during the general election. The state law, designed to save the county money with its new electronic balloting machines, calls for such elections to be held on one of just two dates in a given year.

The two uniform election dates are the second Saturday in May, or the first Tuesday after he first Monday in November.

When the petition was first received, County Clerk Gwen Moffeit referred it to voting registrar Nelda Crecilius, who verified the names and found the required 90 signatures. She actually checked all 98 signatures but found eight invalid.

Crecilius returned the petition to Moffeit, who went before the commissioners court on March 3.

But even then it was 30 days premature because, as Guillotte pointed out, because the election code says an election cannot be called before 30 days expire from the date the petition is issued.

“I accept full responsibility for putting it on the agenda,” Moffeit said Monday. “The commissioners court didn’t do it.”

On her advice, she said, the commissioner court jumped the gun and ordered the election prematurely.

The 30-day wait meant the commissioners would have had to call the election Monday, April 3, to satisfy that requirement.

After the 30-day period has been satisfied, the election must be called no later than 62 days before the next election, which in this case would be the November general election.

That means the county has to come up with a 92-day window to get everything in to meet state requirements. Even if this election had been called Monday, it still could not have met the 62-day requirement.

Had Guillotte not come to court and informed the commissioners of those laws, the election might have been held and then thrown out.

The attorney, in effect, did the county a favor, and advocates for the off-premise consumption are no worse for the wear.

So the November deadline is the advocates only remaining option. It must happen then, though, because the petitions are only good through the end of 2006.

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