It’s a tall order: Gather 5,000 signatures from registered Asheville voters in 30 days. That’s what the hastily organized group Let Asheville Vote is attempting with its petition drive seeking a public referendum on whether or not Asheville will have partisan elections. City Council recently voted, by a 4-3 margin, to forgo nonpartisan voting, a move that’s sparked an outcry from a diverse assortment of local politicos.
And the clock is ticking, fast: LAV has just until July 16 to file all of those signatures with the city.
Charlie Hume, a Democrat who filed the petition a few weeks ago on behalf of LAV, says that “the drive is going well” amidst the mad scramble to get the required signatures. “Everyone we approach has been willing to sign this thing,” he says—well, almost everyone. Of the scores of people he’s personally approached, he says, only two have declined to sign the petition.
And they weren’t the only ones: Last Saturday morning, an LAV volunteer was canvassing in West Asheville and unexpectedly knocked on the door of Council member Bryan Freeborn‘s home. Freeborn, who was one of four members to vote for partisan elections, wasn’t having it. “Saturday’s typically the only day my wife and I get to sleep in,” he told Xpress later. So the visit, which came around 10 a.m., caught the Council member “half asleep,” he says. Asked to sign, he said he “wasn’t interested” in doing so. What’s more, he maintains that LAV’s drive is built more on hype that public dissatisfaction. “I don’t think that there really is overwhelming opposition to [partisan voting],” he says.
So just how far does LAV have to go? At press time, on Monday, July 2, Hume was hesitant to hazard an estimate, since dozens of volunteers and collection points are involved in the effort and the petitions are still coming in. Still, he says he knows the group has “several thousand” signatures in hand. And with the petition appearing in both this week’s Mountain Xpress and an upcoming issue of the Asheville Citizen-Times, Hume and other organizers are hoping for a last-minute surge.
Even if LAV doesn’t hit the 5,000 mark, Hume says that the group’s work could still pay dividends. “If we’ve got several thousand, which we do, it would certainly provide an incentive” for City Council to revisit the issue and consider mandating a referendum of their own volition. “It would provide a chance for some [Council members] to save face,” he suggests—“those who didn’t realize people would react the way they have” to the partisan-voting plan.
Visit www.letashevillevote.org for more information about the LAV petition drive, or contact Hume via e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org)