The next step to determine if wine will be sold in grocery stores in Knox County is underway.
Knox County Election Election administrator Cliff Rodgers says workers began counting and verifying signatures on the petitions to get the referendum on wine sales on the November ballot. To qualify, supporters must gather signatures equal to 10 percent of the voters in the most recent gubernatorial race in each individual city or county.
Each signature must match the one on the voter registration card.
Workers are examining the signatures from Farragut first, because they have the lowest threshold to meet. They need 782 valid signatures to get the measure on the ballot. So far, they've verified close to 400.
They'll check signatures for the City of Knoxville next, which needs nearly 3,400 valid voters. Getting it on the ballot in Knox County will require more than 6,000 signatures, and they will be verified last.
Rodgers expects the pro-wine groups will need to turn in more signatures to reach the goal. They'll resume counting again Saturday morning and into next week.
The group supporting the effort to get wine in Tennessee grocery stores says their campaign is going well.
State lawmakers approved a bill allowing wine to be sold in grocery stores in March. The bill requires voters in cities and counties that already have liquor stores or bars to approve wine in grocery stores in separate referendums. To appear on the ballot, supporters will have to gather signatures equal to 10 percent of the voters in the most recent gubernatorial race.
The group Red White and Food is a nonprofit organization that's been gathering signatures statewide.
They said Friday that more than 119,000 signatures have been collected across Tennessee for the wine in retail food stores petition campaign.
"It's encouraging to see the level of enthusiasm Tennesseans have shown for the campaign," said Red White and Food campaign manager Susie Alcorn. "We could not be where we are in the process without our retail food store partners. They have made the petitions available to their customers, and that has made a tremendous difference in the number of registered voters we are able to reach. We are grateful for their support."
Grocery stores like Food City, Kroger, Bi-Lo, and Publix have allowed the group to gather signatures from customers in their stores.
People interested in helping must be registered to vote in the community where they sign the petition, and those signatures will be verified by the local election commission.
Registered voters who wish to sign the petition are encouraged to visit www.redwhiteandfood.com for a complete list of petition locations.
In communities where the referendum passes, retail food stores will be able to sell wine beginning July 1, 2016.