It’s a practical matter.
Sheldon Richman’s piece at Reason goes more into the policy and history of the wet-dry county divide than I care to.
The problem with the “local control” side of the debate is that the odds are stacked overwhelmingly in favor of the status quo.
If a county wishes to vote on whether to change from dry to wet (or vice versa), Ark. Code Ann. § 3-8-205 (a)(1) requires that a petition be submitted by 38% of the registered voters in the county. If a county wishes to change from dry to damp,** however, the petition need only be signed by enough registered voters to equal 15% of the votes cast in that county in the previous gubernatorial election.***
Essentially, the state legislature has made it incredibly easy for voters to decide to go from dry to damp, but incredibly difficult to go from dry to wet. Thirty-eight per cent of the registered voters in the county is essentially the signature of every voter who plans to vote in favor of the change.
And, of course, opponents of the statewide preemption (and Saline County’s petition to go from dry to wet) are rent-seeking county line liquor stores whose business will suffer when their neighboring counties are no longer dry.
It’s Baptists and Bootleggers all over again.
*Yes, it looks odd, but “Arkansas’s” is the correct possessive form.
**”Damp” counties forbid the sale of alcohol over the counter, but allow the sale in “clubs” for on-premises consumption.
***Ark. Code Ann. § 3-9-206 (a)(2).