100% Austin news, info, and entertainment, straight to your inbox at 6 a.m. every morning.
In five minutes, you're fully informed and ready to start another great day in our city.
Stanford University researchers looked at voter data from 1998 to 2018 in California, Utah and Washington, three states that staggered rollouts of vote-by-mail programs in recent years. Their findings? Expanding voting by mail did increase turnout, but only by two percentage points and not for one party in particular.
Lead researcher Daniel Thompson said vote-by-mail expansion increases the probability that someone who would normally vote actually follows through, rather than driving new or unlikely voters to the polls. "That's why the effect is neutral," he told Austonia.
What does this mean for Texas?
Texas allows mail-in ballots in specific, limited cases: for those over 65, with a disability, out of town during an election or in jail.
Despite the study's findings, vote-by-mail is a political issue in Texas. Many Republican officials, including Attorney General Ken Paxton, oppose expansion, which they say will lead to fraud. Democrats, on the other hand, argue that failing to let people vote by mail is tantamount to voter suppression.
A flurry of recent lawsuits—led by the state Democratic Party and other organizations—have attempted to expand mail-in voting in light of the coronavirus pandemic, but so far, judges have ruled that fear of contracting the coronavirus does not make someone eligible to vote by mail.
Nonetheless, Travis County has seen a near record-breaking number of vote-by-mail ballot applications ahead of the July 14 runoff election.
What happens in November?
Thompson said it's too early to tell if COVID-19 will affect turnout along partisan lines.
"While our paper can answer the question of the partisan consequences of vote-by-mail expansion in normal times, we can't say much yet about what will happen in the fall," he explained.
But it may serve as a reference point for states considering whether to expand vote-by-mail in the face of the pandemic—a move most Americans (and 85% of Austonia readers) support and some states have already taken."There are a lot of questions about how we would implement vote-by mail. How much it would cost, and what groups it might affect," Thompson's co-author Andrew Hall said in an April 16 release about the study's findings. "Our research here doesn't speak to all of these questions, but it addresses one key issue—and shows that, in normal times, expanding vote-by-mail does not advantage either party."
- Voting begins for July 14 runoff election - austonia ›
- Travis County tells some vote-by mail applicants to go to the polls ... ›
- Federal court 'effectively eliminates' chance of legally voting by mail ... ›
- Travis County aims to expand mail-in voting over COVID fears; state ... ›
- Travis Co. election workers quit due to COVID fears - austonia ›
- 5 things Austin learned about voting in a pandemic - austonia ›
- U.S. Sen. John Cornyn faces Round Rock's MJ Hegar for TX seat - austonia ›
Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced a record-setting second quarter during an earnings call broadcasted from the Giga Texas construction site in Southeast Travis County on Monday.
The electric carmaker reported more than $1 billion in quarterly net income and the production of more than 200,000 vehicles for the first time despite challenges such as a global semiconductor shortage.
"It … seems that public sentiment towards electric vehicles is at an inflection point, and at this point, I think, almost everyone agrees electric vehicles are the only way forward," Musk said.
Exterior shots taken just a while ago of Giga Texas (while @elonmusk is reportedly at the Gigafactory!) during today's earnings call!
Hope @peterdog15 got to catch the technoking in his video! #fastestinhistory #Tesla pic.twitter.com/WqeDlb5wU3
— Austin Tesla Club (@AustinTeslaClub) July 26, 2021
Despite rising consumer demand and adequate factory capacity, Tesla faces what Musk described as a "quite serious" global semiconductor shortage, which will determine the company's growth rate for the rest of the year.
With increased revenue and production, Tesla is investing in new factories, Chief Financial Officer Zachary Kirkhorn said. These include Giga Texas, the $1.1 billion manufacturing plant that broke ground last summer and is slated to open later this year.
The Giga Texas factory in Southeast Travis County has rapidly increased in size since ground broke last August. (Tesla)
Musk commended the construction team for "incredible progress," transforming what was basically a vacant site into "a mostly complete large factory a year later."
I was at Giga Texas yesterday. Team is making excellent progress. Building will be almost a mile long when complete.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 25, 2021
Giga Texas will produce the highly anticipated Cybertruck, along with other models, but Musk said scaling its production will be difficult, especially given the supply chain delays caused by the pandemic. "It's going to move as fast as the slowest of its up to 10,000 unique parts," he said.
In other news, Musk said Monday's earnings call would likely be his last regular appearance, only jumping on future quarterly calls when big announcements warrant it.
Tesla Solar recently made news when it announced plans to build the nation's most sustainable residential community in Southeast Austin earlier this month. The newly built homes will feature Tesla solar roof tiles and Powerwall battery storage as well as electric vehicle charging stations.
- How Elon Musk has spent the last 10 days since turning 50 - austonia ›
- Tesla's Elon Musk says Austin factory could hire 10k jobs - austonia ›
- Elon Musk announces Austin Gigafactory will open in 2021 - austonia ›
The city of Austin released a shortlist of seven candidates for the police chief position left vacant when Brian Manley retired in March.
City Manager Spencer Cronk hopes to announce an appointment by the end of August, which will require City Council approval.
The finalists, chosen from a field of 46 applicants, include:
- APD Interim Chief Joseph Chacon, who previously served as an assistant chief in the department for almost five years
- Anne Kirkpatrick, former police chief in Oakland, California, who was fired last year after a federal monitor criticized her handling of a fatal 2018 police shooting of a homeless man
- Dallas Police Department Assistant Chief Avery L. Moore, who is a 30-year veteran of the department
- Atlanta Police Department Deputy Chief Celeste Murphy, who manages the department's community services division
- Dekalb County Police Chief Mirtha V. Ramos, who previously served as division chief in the Miami-Dade Police Department
- Wichita Police Department Chief Gordon Ramsay, who is a former president of the Minnesota Police Chief's Association as well as one of the first police chiefs of a major U.S. City to call George Floyd's death a murder, as reported by the Wichita Eagle
- Los Angeles Police Department Deputy Chief Emada E. Tingirides, who is also commanding officer of the department's newly formed Community Safety Partnership Bureau, which serves L.A.'s underserved communities
City staff will interview the finalists in the coming weeks, with several community input opportunities to come, according to a Monday press release.
The city conducted a public survey in March and hosted community input meetings in April to learn more about what residents are looking for in their next police chief, which helped shape the selection criteria for the position.
"They want to see the Chief be reform-minded and transparent and have a track record of fostering community involvement and accountability," Cronk said in the release. "The candidates selected show these characteristics in various ways."
- Police Chief Brian Manley stepping down amid police protest ... ›
- Austin city manager names interim police chief, starts search ... ›
- Austin searches for new police chief amid reform process - austonia ›
Days after Austin began once again recommending masks in public spaces, Austin ISD announced Monday that kindergarten through sixth-grade classes will have virtual options this fall.
The district will discuss the move in a special board meeting Monday evening starting at 5 p.m., while full details will be released Friday.
Teachers will not have to fret about the new option—no educators will have to juggle both virtual and in-person learning. Instead, certain teachers will specialize in virtual education, according to a press release.
The news comes after a recent spike in COVID cases in Travis County and across the nation. Children typically suffer fewer symptoms of COVID when contracted, but they are now catching the virus more often than their older counterparts without a vaccine available to them and as the more contagious Delta variant is quickly being spread.
While local health officials are recommending everyone wear masks, public school districts are unable to mandate masks due to an executive order issued by Gov. Greg Abbott in May.
Parents have expressed concern about classrooms with masks unenforceable and children under the age of 12 ineligible for a vaccine. Some have even said they would look for alternative schooling if AISD did not offer a virtual option for students.
- Austin ISD reports enrollment drop due to virtual learning - austonia ›
- Austin ISD goes fully in-person for 2021-22 school year - austonia ›
- Austin ISD receives COVID-19 vaccine for eligible staff - austonia ›
- AISD considers temporary remote learning amid holiday surge ... ›
- Austin ISD sees enrollment fall amid COVID, raising funding ... ›
- Austin private schools see continued COVID enrollment bump ... ›
- Austin ISD enrollment decline may lead to layoffs amid COVID ... ›