Travis County, Texas surpass 2016 turnout during early voting—with Election Day sure to widen margin
More people voted early in Travis County this election than in the entire 2016 election. A lot more.
When early voting closed on Friday, 553,290 residents had voted early. The bulk of those—nearly 90%—voted in person. The remainder voted by mail or limited ballot, which is available to those in the process of moving.
All told, nearly 65% of Travis County's registered voters cast their ballots early.
You did it! 30,083 people voted in person today. With mail ballots, this brings the unofficial early voting total t… https://t.co/zpHlfw8dNX— Travis County Clerk (@Travis County Clerk) 1604116200.0
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott extended the early voting period by six days this election due to the coronavirus pandemic.
In comparison, only 374,052 residents—or just over half of those registered—voted early during the 2016 general election.
Factoring in Election Day turnout, which accounted for about 22% of votes, 477,588 people voted in Travis County in the last election—or around 75,000 fewer than have voted in this one, with Election Day tomorrow.
This trend is not limited to Travis County. Nearby, Hays and Williamson counties surpassed their 2016 numbers last week, and turnout is up statewide—and across the country—despite the ongoing pandemic.
More than 9.7 million Texans—or 57% of registered voters—cast their ballots early, according to the Texas Secretary of State's office.
This represents a nearly 11% increase in turnout compared to the 2016 presidential election, when fewer than 9 million Texans voted. Election Day turnout will further widen that margin.
Recent polls provide little insight into what the statewide results may be in the presidential election.
But researchers at the Texas Politics Project at UT-Austin wrote in a Friday blog post that "we should expect some manifestation of the usual GOP advantage in Election Day voting," as Democrats are more likely to vote early and Republicans less likely to be deterred by rising COVID numbers.
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Airbnb is moving to make its COVID-induced ban on house parties permanent—but from the affordable housing shortage to
"Under 25" bans, the short-term rental service may be losing its shine in Austin.
In 2019, the company moved to prohibit “open-invite” parties that were advertised on social media and “chronic party houses." By 2020, its ban broadened to all parties and events "until further notice," which was officially coded into policy Tuesday.
From August 2020 to January 2022, Airbnb denied over 48,000 reservations in Texas from serial party offenders, and around 3,300 reservations were declined through the "Under 25" system in Austin.
For some Austinites, the party ban may be the last straw.
Society has progressed past the need for Airbnb's https://t.co/44rTBDQPX1
— Caleb (@ipleadthef1th) June 20, 2022
But Airbnb has already caught plenty of flack for its possible contributions to the nation's housing shortage.
In Austin, short-term rentals are required to be registered through the city. And while the city reports around 1,900 rental units in the rental registry, according to city demographer Lila Valencia, data collection site Inside Airbnb has tracked close to 12,000 in the area.
Inside Airbnb founder Murray Cox said that too many Airbnbs in Austin could shrink the available housing market.
"If the housing units (have) been taken off the market, that's displacing people, it's making housing more scarce. And it's probably driving the cost of housing up," Cox told Austonia.
Short-term rentals could also eat into new housing in Austin, from apartment buildings to accessory dwelling units on single-family properties.
"If new housing has been built, and it's being tied to Airbnb, that's also really just servicing the tourism industry as opposed to the housing needs of the city," Cox said.
Because a large portion of its customers are tourists, Airbnbs may also tend to crowd around desirable areas, such as downtown or South Congress. South Congress's average rent now rivals New York City, according to Austin Business Journal.
"When that happens, you're taking away housing units in an already densely-populated area where there is more of a shortage of housing," Valencia said. "And so then the people who historically once lived there are no longer able to afford to live there, and the unit itself isn't even going to somebody who could afford to rent it on a more permanent basis, but rather to people who are coming in and visiting for a weekend or two."
Despite the pandemic—and growing frustration among homeowners and renters—Airbnb saw a record year in 2021. But two of Airbnb's billionaire founders have quietly sold $1.2 billion in company stock in the last year, a possible premonition of what's to come.
And while some have created an Airbnb "empire"—one company owns 338 available listings in Austin—many priced-out Austinites are fed up with big investors' influence in the tight housing market.
These are not imperialist conquerors; they’re over leveraged milk toast millennials who probably borrowed money from their wealthy boomer parents and be bailed out by the same #housingmarket#airbnb#recessionpic.twitter.com/K6DM8bT730
— Texas Runner (@OGtexasrunner) June 21, 2022
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