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invades Abilene commission had to canvass the votes and officially declare the outcome. CBC asked for a recount. And when assistant district attorney Gary Hacker told the commissioners on June 23 that they were just supposed to canvass the votes and had no authority to order a recount, the court voted three to two to disregard Hacker’s advice and postpone the canvassing until they could get an official opinion from the attorney general. The lines were thus drawn for the summer’s battles: in the subsequent contests, the same two commissionersJake McMillon and Felton Saverancecontinued to vote as the court’s legal counsel, district attorney Lynn Ingalsbe, advised; the othersBert Chapman, Joe McDuff and County Judge Roy Skaggsformed the Taylor County dryumvirate, consistently voting for an ultimate dry victory at whatever cost to legal niceties. While the commissioners waited for their AG’s opinion, the wets got impatient. They asked Abilene District Judge Donald Lane for a writ of mandamus ordering the county officials to canvass the votes and declare the results, and Lane scheduled a hearing for July 14. Then, on July 10, the commissioners got the word from the AG’s office that Hacker had been right: they couldn’t order a recount. Their meeting room that day was filled with glum drys, cheerful wets, and plenty of reporters, all expecting to witness the demise of Abilene’s 76-year-old prohibition. But the drys weren’t ready to give up yet. The commissioners did finally canvass the votes. But Judge Skaggs set aside the votes from one voting box, saying “It seems to me we can’t canvass the results of this precinct.” Why? Well, there were legal questions about some recent rearrangements of city boundaries and crossed-up precinct lines, but the suspicious noticed that the unofficial tally for the box indicated a wet plurality of 511 to 354, so by disallowing those votes Skaggs could change the outcome from a 122-vote wet victory to a 35-vote dry victory. McMillon asked Ingalsbe for his opinion, and the district attorney advised the commissioners to canvass all the boxes, saying the question of the disputed votes’ legality was not for them to decide. McMillon moved to canvass all boxes and Saverance seconded, but the dryumvirate nixed the motion. McDuff then moved that they canvass all boxes except the one; Chapman seconded, and Ingalsbe advised against it. The vote? You guessed itthree to two for. lop \\ co/Ms alseievt -4 At that point, the wets withdrew to regroup, but they did still have that hearing scheduled on Update’s petition for a writ of mandamus, and they amended it to ask Judge Lane to order the commissioners to canvass all the voting boxes. The judge agreed, and the commissioners conducted a second canvass on July 20. This time the wets emerged victorious, but before the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission could grant any liquor licenses, the dry forces went to District Judge Charles Mathews \(whose Austin district is the home of the TABC’s second canvass was improper. Mathews issued a temporary order restraining TABC from granting any liquor licenses to Abilene applicants. Now come the lawsuits. The TABC sued Judge Mathews, but the Supreme Court refused to hear the case. And Update and CBC each filed a pair of suits seeking to have their respective victorious canvasses declared official and their defeats voided. The commissioners court filed answers claiming that the wet and dry groups failed to state causes of action and further claiming that the commissioners had acted properly in both canvasses. On August 29, Judge Mathews issued a new order to the TABC not to grant liquor licenses in Taylor County until the election contests were settled. Two days later the Supreme Court agreed to hear TABC’s action against Judge Mathews, and on September 20 the justices deliberated less than ten minutes before deciding to order Judge Mathews to rescind his order and leave things in the hands of the Abilene courts. By that afternoon, the owner of two convenience storesremember Skinny’s No. 5?had journeyed to Austin and back with his beer and wine license. As word got around, Abilenians bellied up to the counters 15-deep and began carrying off armloads of beer in a buying frenzy that made it risky to drive on North First Street for a week and forced those stores newly engaged in booze purveyance to hire more personnel. Perhaps the on-again, off-again nature of liquor sales legality in Abilene precipitated an understandable urge among the townfolk to stock up while the stocking is good. And now it’s a simple matter of awaiting the outcome of all those lawsuits, right? Wrong. On October 5, Abilene city councilman Joe Alcorta got into the act. On his behalf, Austin attorney Buck Wood \(who has represented various individuals of the wet filed a lawsuit and a pile of motions in the Abilene district court. The suit asks for a judgment as to which canvass is valid, maintaining that the first one is the one to pick. Alcorta also asked that a new judge be appointed to rule on the whole mess. Even though he says he is a plaintiff in his official capacity as a councilman, in which capacity he professes no opinion, he does admit to an alter ego as a private citizen who supports the drys. There’s a chance this new suit will resolve the outcome of the June 17 election in our lifetime, but only a fool would predict what that outcome might be. And one thing is certain: whichever side loses will call another election and start the whole thing all over again. But in the meantime, the opposing sides can easilyand legallyobtain the appropriate celebratory or sorrow-drowning libations, and those driven to drink by the exasperating mess can commence bending elbows. El 11 THE TEXAS OBSERVER