Alcohol referendum countdown: Clarke County, Miss.

CLARKE COUNTY, Miss. (WTOK) - We're a day away from an historic vote in one East Mississippi County. Voters in Clarke County will head to the polls on Tuesday, November 7th to decide a referendum about whether to keep that county dry. Leading up to the big day, response from voters has been lagging. In fact, out of almost 12,000 eligible voters, members of the county's election commission say prior to noon on Monday, November 6th, they had received less than 250 absentee ballots.

"In a presidential election we can have close to 1,000," says committee chairwoman, Dora McKenzie.

However, a slow early response is not stopping supporters on each side of the issue.

Those who helped to get the sale of beer and alcohol on the ballot spent Monday calling voters.

"96% of the people in this county, they drink," says Mimmo Rendina, who is the owner of Mimmo's Ristorante Pizzeria. 'We bring money to other counties around here, when we just can bring money to this county and fix the problems we have."

Those who oppose the effort also spent the day getting out their message.

"I think there's been some momentum gained over the last few days. I really do," says Pastor Dennis Coats from Calvary Baptist Church in Quitman.

Clarke County Missionary Grady Crowell agrees. His brother-in-law was killed by a drunk driver almost 30 years ago.

"Nobody ever was arrested for driving too sober," says Crowell. "It's much better having stood before the Lord having stood for morals and righteousness, than to have yielded."

Rendina says he doesn't see the responsible use of alcohol has a moral issue.

"I'm from Italy," says Rendina. "We've got the Vatican in Italy. The Pope picks up the communion and dips it in the wine. He's drinking wine. So, I don't think that's against religion."

"We want to make sure that everybody drinks responsibly," says referendum supporter Kirby Pugh. "The thing is that they're always complaining about revenue. 'We can't do this. We can't do that because of money!' If this is going to bring money to the communities then why wouldn't you want to bring it if it's going to happen anyway?"

Supporters of the referendum project that if approved it would generate between $300,000 or $400,000 extra for the county annually.

Members of both groups say they're optimistic about the outcome.

"We've been proactive and praying that tomorrow will be a victory for the Lord and truly for the people of Clarke County," says Pastor Coats.

"I'm optimistic, and I believe that it will be approved," says Pugh.

School board elections within the county will also be on Tuesday's ballot. Polls in Clarke County will open Tuesday at 7 AM and close at 7 that night. Residents will vote at their regular precinct for county elections.