Recent news reports may have sounded the death knell a tad too early for a citizen petition drive aimed at forcing a referendum on the matter of partisan elections for Asheville’s mayor and City Council members.
An article in the July 21 Citizen-Times, “Challenge to Partisan Vote Fades,” stated that as of Friday, “Election officials had unofficially verified 4,766 signatures and disqualified 1,233.”
But today Buncombe County Board of Elections Director Trena Parker told Xpress that her office had validated 4,924 of the more than 6,000 signatures turned in, leaving the petition drive just 76 signatures shy of the needed 5,000. Moreover, the BOE is still waiting for responses to 549 verification letters sent to disputed names beginning last Friday.
“Those people signed the petition as Asheville residents, but we have them in our database as residents of the county,” says Parker. They have until July 30 to verify their city residence.
The recent signature scramble was organized by south Asheville resident Charlie Hume and others, under the banner of Let Asheville Vote, in response to Asheville City Council’s 4-3 vote last month to attach a party affiliation to candidates for city office. (Since 1994, Asheville elections have been nonpartisan.)
Despite the conflicting reports, Hume said he remains upbeat. “I’m very hopeful that we’ll reach our goal,” he says.
If it succeeds, the petition drive will require the city to hold a public vote on whether or not local elections should be partisan affairs. A final tally is due on July 30.
Look for more details — and a summary of potential additional twists in the partisan/nonpartisan saga — in Wednesday’s Mountain Xpress.
— Kent Priestley, staff writer