More than 400 signatures. That’s how many registered voters Dr. Aziz Omer says he has on his petition for a recall vote in attempt to remove Mayor Mel Cohen from office.
“I have over 400 signatures in less than two weeks of time invested in this, since I’ve received (the petition) back in late June,” Omer said. “Since then, I have been out of town for the three and a half weeks.”
Omer says that he is “more than 100 percent confident” that he will acquire the 2,228 required signatures to hold the recall election.
The Burke County Board of Elections has requested that Omer turn in the signatures in batches of 200 in order to more efficiently verify the individuals that have signed. However, Omer said that he will wait to turn in the petition until he has all the required names to avoid any scrutiny from elected officials.
“They will not be made available for yourselves (The News Herald), much less the mayor, to scrutinize them or to expose who these people are,” Omer said. “A lot of people fear the mayor, whether it be direct or indirect, that he could possibly harm them or their jobs or their livelihood. That is not going to be happening.
“Just like when you go to vote, your vote is private. It doesn’t come under the scrutiny of the newspaper or TV or anywhere else. This is the same way. It is going to be respected just that way.”
Cohen said he would not chastise citizens that signed the petition as they have a right to their opinion on their city leadership.
“I can’t scrutinize or do anything to these people,” Cohen said. “This is America we’re living in. I don’t know what country he is living in. I wouldn’t dare do anything to the people that sign it. If they feel that confident that there should be a recall, then that’s part of life.”
According to Burke County Board of Elections Director Debbie Mace, the petition was filed on June 27, 2013, and it will be open for one year. Omer needs 25 percent of registered voters in Morganton to sign the petition before it can be certified by the board of elections.
If the petition is certified, the board of elections will inform the city council to send a letter of resolution to conduct an election to recall the mayor’s position.
“The election itself must be held no less than 45 days and no more than 90 days after the petition is certified,” Mace said in an email. “Also, the election may be held alone or at the same time as any other general election or special election within that time frame.”
While passionate about the politics of Morganton, Omer said that he is not interested in running for political office.
“I’m not doing this for personal gain.” he said. “I have no interest in running for a purposeful gain and I’m not currently interested in running for any form of office here. I’m a concerned citizen.”