The village of Florien, La., nestled in the piney woods of western Louisiana not far from Toledo Bend, voted by the slimmest of margins last December to go dry — that is, to prohibit the sale of alcohol. This is still a thing in the Bible Belt.
But the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeal, in a decision released Thursday, voided that village-wide vote on a number of technicalities after two residents of Florien (rhymes with chlorine), population about 600, filed suit against the village to block the teetotaling measure.
There were actually five propositions before Florien voters on the Dec. 10, 2016 ballot, all having to do with the sale of alcohol — ranging from alcohol-by-volume to sales in stores. The margin in each was razor thin: 182 people voted on each of the propositions (except No. 3, which one of those 182 skipped) and the “no” vote — the propositions were phrased as “shall the sale of alcohol be permitted?” — prevailed by two to five votes on each.
The three-judge appellate panel agreed with the plaintiffs in the suit that Florien and its board of aldermen failed to follow a number of provisions in Louisiana law for calling a local-option election, backing a district court judge’s earlier ruling against the village: “The trial court found that the election itself and the pre-election and post-election procedures resulted in at least five statutory violations,” the appeals court’s decision reads in part.
“Further,” the opinion concludes, “finding that the petition itself did not substantially comply with the governing statutes, we amend the trial court’s judgment to state that the election was illegally called, ineffective, and therefore null and void.”
One of the plaintiffs in the suit against Florien, Patrick Sandel, is co-owner of a convenience store that sells spirits.
The 3rd Circuit’s ruling does not prevent Florien from trying again to ban alcohol within village limits, but for the time being residents won’t have to make the 10-mile trek north to Many for a 12-pack.