13 Mar Prohibition is Still on the Ballot…in Illinois!
If you live in the small township of Gardner in Sangamon County, Illinois, you might wonder whether you’re voting in 1920 or 2020. The residents of Gardner, all 1464 of them, will have the opportunity to vote on a referendum asking the citizens whether their small corner of the world should maintain prohibition against the sale of alcohol in the township’s limits. Yes, folks, the times are a changin’.
The language is unnaturally complicated for a ballot referendum, the irony of this vote in 2020 instead of 1920 isn’t. “Shall the Prohibition of the sale at retail of Alcoholic liquor be continued in Gardner Township, County of Sangamon, State of Illinois?” (Note, no explanation is given on the ballot as to why the word “Alcoholic” is capitalized.) Choose “yes” or “no,” but try to remember that “no” means “yes” to alcohol sales and “yes” means “no” to alcohol sales. Got that?
The Gardner Township has existed since March 1, 1861 and has approximately 3,323 constituents. What it does not have is any establishment that serves alcohol within the confines of the Township. Of course, you can drive over to the gas station just outside of the Township’s limits and buy whatever you want, but not here. Prohibition has been the law in Gardner since the original Volstead Act.
What are the arguments for and against? The small township wants retail establishments and the income that is generated by alcohol sales. They know that they are missing out on convenience stores, grocery stores and reception halls that won’t locate within the Township because they can’t serve alcohol. So much for “shop local!” People opposed claim that the Prohibition protects the 3,323 residents from alcoholism, drunk driving, and the “change” that alcohol brings to a community. Sound familiar? Yes, these are the exact same arguments that were being made one hundred years ago.
But things have changed, right? Gardner Township is 8 miles from the city limits of Springfield, Illinois. There is plenty of alcohol to go around in the State’s Capitol. In 1920 when automobiles were rare, this might have taken more than two and half hours to walk to Springfield. Now, everyone over the age of 16 has a vehicle and driving 8 miles takes 10 minutes. So what are they protecting their constituents from? And if the concern is drinking and driving, doesn’t it make more sense to put a bar in the middle of 3,323 people instead of an 8 mile drive?
Gardner Township isn’t alone in its insistence on living life like the 1920’s. Thirty-two towns in Alaska criminalize even possession of alcohol. At least ten states in America maintain some sort of Prohibition laws in 2020. In Kentucky—you know, the home of Jim Beam, there are sixty-nine dry counties! Seriously? You can smell the whiskey from your dry porch, but you can’t buy it?
There is good news! Chicago is not a remote island that is difficult to get to or from. Take a car, boat, plane, or train and we promise to let you drink alcohol during this tour!
And don’t forget to vote your values, Gardner!
Written by Amy Williams