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Some States Still Prohibit Drinking While Voting

South Carolina and Kentucky maintain a Prohibition-era ban on Election Day alcohol sales.

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Voters want their beer back. Photo via

By Bryan Le

11/06/12

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Alcohol is a notorious instigator of bad decision-making, so hitting the bottle before heading to the polls should be discouraged. But in two states—South Carolina and Kentucky—it's actually illegal to sell and serve alcoholic beverages on Election Day. The laws originate from Prohibition era, when swapping drinks for votes was a fairly common practice used to sway already-swaying voters. Seventy-nine years after Prohibition was repealed, these two states have maintained the restrictions, though not without resistance—especially since, for many, drinking is a solution for election-induced stress and anxiety. “The Election Day sales ban is a relic of the Prohibition era when saloons sometimes served as polling stations,” says Ben Jenkins, vice president of the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States. “Repealing the ban would provide consumers with much-needed convenience—whether they’re celebrating election returns or mourning them.” Kentucky Democratic Representative Arnold Simpson has tried to end the ban no less than five times, claiming it is now unnecessary since bribing voters with alcohol is a thing of the past. Also, the law costs the state $4.5 million in liquor store, restaurant and bar sales every year. Since 2008, five other states—Indiana, Delaware, Utah, Idaho and West Virginia—have lifted similar bans on Election Day drinking.

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