Complaints of Forged Signatures on Wet-Dry Referendum Petition

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BOAZ, Ala. (WHNT) -- More than a dozen Boaz residents are upset their names are on the petition in support of a referendum for a vote that could legalize liquor sales in the city.

Without their signatures, there wouldn't be enough support to call for the vote.

Leaders of a group which encourages people to cast votes against alcohol obtained a copy of the signatures Tuesday, and said it is a vote that may take place because of fraud.

"We feel like this vote is coming forth under false pretenses," Shannon Pullen said.

Pullen, a pastor, opposes Boaz becoming the fourth wet city in Marshall County, and recently wrote his reasons for staying dry in a letter to the editor at the local newspaper.

He said he was curious about the petition calling for a wet-dry vote which was submitted to the city clerk in September, and got a copy of the petition seven days before the vote.

"We began to notice some names that began to cause us to have suspicions," he said.

"Some of them were even my own family members."

Pullen said he called friends and family to confirm at least 15 people did not put their names and signatures on the petition or authorize anyone else to do so.

Petition coordinators left pages at several Boaz residents for people to sign in favor of holding a wet-dry vote, and later picked them up and submitted them to city hall.

City Clerk Jill Bright received the petition September 12, and said it had to have names and signatures of 30 percent of the voters from the previous general municipal election, 665 out of 2,214.

The 77 pages contained more than 1,600 names, and Bright verified 669 were valid.

The city is not required to verify that the signature is actually that of the voter, nor do the petitioners, and a petition cannot be posted at City Hall as that would constitute the endorsement of city officials.

"I just make sure that that name is actually on our voter's list," Bright said.

Bright showed WHNT News 19 some of the signatures with questioned authenticity, and right above two of them was the name Billy Wayne Glassco.

His name did not count toward the petition as he was never a registered voter in Boaz.

Glassco was murdered August 1 in the Asbury community in northern Marshall County.

"I wish now, seeing what we'd seen, that we'd had the notion to do this much earlier because it could have made a significant difference in what's going to transpire here," Pullen said.

The city clerk said several people who claim they did not sign the petition called City Hall Wednesday to complain, and Pullen called the Alabama Attorney General's office.

Bright said the vote will still take place.

"Our city attorney [Danny Smith] has advised that we still have to have the election because we have passed a resolution to have an election," she said.

"I guess as far as anybody wanting something done about it, they'll have to do it on the back end because it has passed."

Pullen said he and others plan to challenge if the majority vote yes, but hope that voters will do what they did in 2010 and choose to remain dry.

He said the number of signatures on the petition could be a good sign. 

"We're finding out a lot of those names were forged, so we're hoping that is an indicator that the people of Boaz will do the right thing and Boaz will stay dry," Pullen said.

One of the petition coordinators, John Thompson, told WHNT News 19 he was unaware if people signed names of others, but is disappointed in anyone who did so.

He said he thinks this is a last-ditch effort by those who want the city to stay dry, and is confident that Boaz will eventually go wet.

The ballot, only available at the Boaz Recreation Center, asks “Do you favor the legal sale and distribution of alcoholic beverages within this municipality?”  Yes  or  No

A 2010 motion to legalize liquor lost by 209 votes, as 55 percent of voters said no.