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Austonia's May 1 voter guide: races to watch, dates to know and where to vote
(Bob Daemmrich)

Early voting begins Monday and runs through Tuesday, April 27. The last day to apply for a mail-in ballot is Tuesday, April 20. Election Day is on Saturday, May 1.

Austin voters will determine the fates of eight propositions during this election. Each proposes to amend the city charter in ways big and small. Two in particular have garnered attention and controversy.

If passed, Proposition B would reinstate a ban on public camping that Austin City Council lifted in 2019 and Proposition F would shift the city government from a strong-manager system to a strong-mayor one. The other six propositions also have far-reaching implications for how the city is run, from police oversight to campaign finance reform.

Dates to know

Early voting begins Monday and runs through Tuesday, April 27. Early voting polling locations will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Monday through Saturday and from noon to 6 p.m. on Sunday.

The last day to apply for a mail-in ballot is Tuesday, April 20. Note that applications must be received by this date, not just postmarked.

The application form, which can be found here, must be mailed to following address:

Dana DeBeauvoir
Travis County Clerk- Elections Divisions
P.O. Box 149325
Austin, TX 78714

In Texas, only certain voters are eligible to vote by mail. They include:

  • People who are 65 and older
  • Out of the country during the entire election period
  • Sick or disables
  • In jail

Election Day is on Saturday, May 1. Polling locations, which can be found here, will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

The registration deadline has passed. Residents can find out if they are already registered here.

Races to watch

Proposition A: Charter amendment regarding binding arbitration in firefighters' labor contract

(Austin Fire Department/Twitter)

If passed, this proposition would require an arbitrator to intervene in cases where the city and the Austin Firefighters Association, a union representing Austin Fire Department employees, reach a stalemate during labor contract negotiations. The arbitrator would hear presentations from both parties and make a binding ruling, like a judge.

AFA President Bob Nicks led a petition process to get this proposition on the ballot and argues that it would help avoid future prolonged arguments, which have occurred in three of the union's last six bargaining cycles—at significant cost. "Rather than getting to impasse at the table, you're more likely to look at each other's interests and come to an agreement at the table if you know that—if you don't—it'll go to an arbitrator," he told Austonia.

Proposition B: City Code amendment to reinstate restrictions on public camping  

(Charlie L. Harper III)

This proposition resulted from a successful petition effort by the local political action committee Save Austin Now, which is campaigning to reinstate the city's ban on public camping—along with other activities, such as sitting or lying down on a public sidewalk or aggressive panhandling, in certain areas—after council overturned in 2019.

SAN argues that the decision to repeal the ban has adversely impacted public safety, residents and businesses and left homeless people to live in unsafe conditions. Although the group's opponents generally agree that the city's homeless situation is untenable, they argue that reinstating the ban will do nothing to address the root causes of homelessness and instead lead to citations and tickets that make it harder for homeless people to access housing, work and other resources.

Proposition C: Charter amendment regarding office of police oversight 

Office of Police Oversight Director Farah Muscadin, second from right, at a local policing symposium in 2019. (Office of Police Oversight/Twitter)

This proposition stems from an ordinance put forward by Council Member Greg Casar. If approved, it would move the city's office of police oversight from the control of the city manager's office to that of council. City Manager Spencer Cronk faced criticism from council members and residents for his handling of the Black Lives Matter protests last summer.

Margo Fraiser, vice president of the National Association for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement and former Travis County Sheriff and city of Austin police monitor, said such a shift is only half of the battle as an independent oversight office is only as strong as its ability to access and report on data from the police department. "It's hard to predict whether (this proposition alone) would improve civilian oversight or not," she said.

Proposition D: Charter amendment to move mayoral elections to presidential years

Travis County saw record turnout during the Nov. 3 general election. (Bob Daemmrich)

Local political action committee Austinites for Progressive Reform successfully submitted a petition in January that proposed a series of amendments to the city charter in an effort to increase voter turnout. Propositions D through H stem from this initiative.

This proposition would move mayoral elections from gubernatorial election years to presidential election years in an effort to ensure higher voter turnout. The mayor elected in 2022 will serve a two-year term, and the next election will take place during the general election in November 2024.

Proposition E: Charter amendment to create ranked choice voting for city elections

mail in voting


Also stemming from the citizen-led petition organized by APR, this proposition would amend the city charter to provide for ranked choice voting in city elections if permitted by state law. The intention of this proposition is to eliminate runoffs, which typically have much lower turnout than general elections and participating voters tend to skew older and more conservative.

Ranked-choice voting, however, is certainly prohibited under state law. A city charter amendment, even if passed, would not be implemented unless state lawmakers make the same change.

Proposition F: Charter amendment to change to a strong mayor form of government

(Charlie L. Harper III)

The most controversial of APR's proposed amendments, this proposition would fundamentally change how the city government operates, shifting it from a strong-manager form to a strong-mayor form. Under the latter form, the city manager position would be eliminated and replaced by the mayor, who would not vote on items brought to council but could veto legislation approved by its members.

Proponents say it will give voters more control over the person who actually runs the city—an elected mayor rather than an appointed city manager—and point to the Jim Crow-era origins of Austin's current strong-manager system. A broad coalition of opponents, which includes local unions, most council members and business leaders, say it will consolidate power in one office and undermine the gains of the 10-1 council system enacted in 2014.

Proposition G: Charter amendment to add an 11th council district

Because Proposition F entails the mayor no longer serving as a council member, APR proposed creating an 11th council district to prevent tie votes and expand district representation in keeping with the city's population growth.

Council decided to separate the initiatives on the ballot, creating the possibility that one will be approved and not the other, leaving council with an even number of voting members—and a higher chance of tie votes and legislative gridlock.

Proposition H: Charter amendment to adopt a public campaign finance program


This proposition would implement a public campaign funding program, called Democracy Dollars, to give voters $25 vouchers to support the local council candidate—and, in presidential election years, mayoral candidate—of their choice in an attempt to offset the influence of wealthy donors.

Such a program is already in place in Seattle, where it has driven turnout and increased donor diversity. APR has faced criticism locally for deviating from Seattle's model; as proposed, its Democracy Dollars program would exclude those unable to vote due to immigration status or criminal history.


A big announcement from Austonia

Howdy, and happy holidays.

I have some big news for you.

Austonia is now part of 6AM City, a fast-growing network of hyper-local newsletters across the country.

I’m proud to be telling you this, because 6AM City’s mission is very much like Austonia’s — a daily morning update on events, things-to-do and news, with an underlying mission of community building in the cities they serve.

If you’re not already subscribed, 6AM City’s Austin newsletter is called ATXtoday. One of its city editors is Laura Figi, who you’ll remember for her previous great work on Austonia’s newsletter.

I’ve been reading ATXtoday every day since it launched last year.

Starting this week, you’ll receive ATXtoday every morning and I’m confident it will become part of your daily wake up routine. Be sure to add to your contact list (how to do that here).

Meantime let me thank you for your readership and support of Austonia, and convey my wishes for a great holiday season for you and those close to you.

Thank you,

Mark Dewey

Austonia CEO

Tito's releases (not so?) ugly sweater line for the holidays, profits to charity

Tito's Handmade Vodka

Show your love for Tito's and for the community this year with a wide selection of not that ugly, uglyish, ugly, uglier, and ugliest holiday sweaters.

There's lots choose from, and plenty of accessories like scarves and socks, plus gear for your dog, too.

All of the items can be purchased online or at the Love, Tito’s Retail Store in Austin, TX. 100% of all net proceeds from online or in-store purchases go to one of the nonprofits we’ve teamed up with.

Click here to see the entire collection in the Tito's store.