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JUST VOTE Fiscal court delay on liquor issue silly

This isn't pick on the fiscal court month, we promise. But the McCracken County legislative body seems to be having a bad run of late.

We've recently chastised them for making a substantial and disputed payment to a former employee who, we come to find, is under police investigation for threatening to reveal embarrassing information about one of the commissioners in retaliation for a previous unfavorable vote.

That payment vote, we think, was premature under the circumstances. This week we take issue with another vote, one that didn't occur at all.

Perhaps it's election year jitters - the filing deadline for entering this year's county elections was Tuesday. But Monday's decision by the fiscal court to table second reading of an ordinance permitting Election Day alcohol sales after two people spoke in opposition strikes us as kind of ridiculous.

At issue is a 1952 law prohibiting the sale of alcoholic beverages between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. on Election Day. Kentucky's prohibition against Election Day liquor sales goes back to a common form of vote fraud in a bygone era when votes were traded for whiskey, usually in impoverished mountain precincts. Senate Bill 13, passed last year by the Kentucky Legislature, cleared the way for removal of the Election Day ban, but local approval is also required.

The city of Paducah passed an enabling ordinance in December. The fiscal court appeared set to do the same for the roughly 15 businesses outside the city that sell or serve alcohol, but flinched after a couple of opponents spoke out.

Now the fiscal court says it wants to hold an additional public forum Feb. 10 and then make a decision.

We are ambivalent as to which way this decision goes. The opponents make fair points - the ban at least might keep a few impaired motorists off the road during voting hours, and voting should be undertaken with clarity of mind.

But Deputy County Clerk Lyne Dickey also fairly notes that people who want to drink on Election Day can and do buy liquor beforehand, so the prohibition may have little practical effect. Meanwhile, the county stands to lose liquor tax revenue if it balks on the ordinance.

So vote already! If 50 people had flocked in and all had not had time to express their views, then perhaps a delay and another forum is called for. But two people? Two people and the court retreats from the vote and determines the issue needs more study?

County commissioners are elected to make decisions and stand with the consequences. Shirking from that responsibility in the shadow of the filing deadline may allow them to avoid controversy for a time, but in the end it won't win them any points with voters.

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