Early voting began in Travis County this past week, and it’s important to know what’s on the ballot. Perhaps the biggest vote this cycle is whether to pass Proposition A, a new bill that would heavily affect Austin’s policing system.
Prop A aims to increase funding and resources for the Austin Police Department. It would require every 1,000 Austin residents to be allocated at least two officers, and would increase the required police training by 40 hours. Consequently, it would allocate a lot of money to the APD and increase police presence in Austin.
The debate about Prop A goes back to the larger controversy surrounding defunding the police, a movement that encourages divesting from the police budget and reinvesting in other sectors. Proponents of funneling funds to the policing department say a budget increase is necessary because of high crime rates in Austin, while the opposing viewpoint says increasing the police budget will divert funds from more integral sectors and put more citizens in danger of experiencing police violence.
If Prop A is passed, it would likely reallocate funds to the APD and take those funds from other public sectors, including parks, community development and education. There have also been a number of experts that suggest police training is not nearly as effective as it needs to be. Some critics say this indicates APD doesn’t need more funds, and this money has better uses elsewhere.
The election is on Tuesday, Nov. 2, and the Flawn Academic Center will be open! Make sure to bring your ID and go out and vote!
Early voting in Austin has begun! From Oct. 18 to Oct. 29, Travis County residents are eligible to vote. Election Day is on Nov. 2. If you want to make an informed decision, keep on reading to find out what’s on your ballot.
The Austin ballot is composed of Propositions A and B and Propositions one through eight.
But what do propositions do? They suggest a program or plan of action.
Propositions A and B are Austin local plans that will affect policing and parkland.
There are two options when voting for Proposition A: voting YES or voting NO (you have to choose).
Voting YES for Proposition A means:
Increasing police staff to meet the minimum staff required to match Austin’s population. There would need to be two police officers per 1,000 residents.
Add 40 hours to police training
Increase compensation for officers who are bilingual (or proficient in other languages), officers who enroll in mentor cadet programs and officers recognized for honorable conduct.
Please note that proposition A does not include the funding for these plans. Funding will come from an increase in taxes or cutting funding from other departments such as the fire department.
Similarly, there are two options for Proposition B: Voting YES or voting NO (again, you have to choose.).
Voting YES for Proposition B means:
Authorization of land swap; Austin will trade nine acres of city parkland for 48 acres of waterfront property to turn into a park
The nine acres of parkland the city currently owns is home to ATX’s Parks and Rec Central Maintenance Complex and because the property is considered parkland, the city must vote to get rid of it
Onto propositions one through eight!
Did you know the state of Texas has a constitution? All states do! It’s what allows them to be their own state.
Like any other constitution, this one has amendments. Propositions one through eight are amends to the Texas constitution, so let’s figure out what they will change:
This amendment would allow sport teams to hold raffles at rodeos.
This amendment would allow counties to issue bonds (money) to fund infrastructure and transportation projects in undeveloped areas. It also prohibits counties that issue such bonds from pledging more than 65% of that money.
This amendment would prohibit the state from passing a law that limits religious services and organizations.
This amendment changes the eligibility for state judges. The most prominent changes are:
Must be a Texas resident and U.S. citizen
Must have 8 – 10 years of attorney/judge experience
This amendment would allow the State Commission on Judicial Conduct to investigate candidates of the judicial office.
This amendment would allow residents of assisted living facilities to have an essential caregiver that cannot be prohibited from in-person visitation.
This amendment would allow the surviving spouse of a disabled individual to keep a homestead property tax limit (reduced school taxes and $10,000 tax exemption) if 55 years or older.
This amendment would qualify the surviving spouse of a military member (who has died or been severely injured) for a total homestead property tax exemption (so they don’t have to pay property taxes).
Now that you know what each proposition is, go vote! The current propositions are critical to the future of Austin. Voting stations are available at the Flawn Academic Center and Gregory Gym!
You’ve probably seen them in your classrooms and if you haven’t, then you’ve definitely seen them tabling on Speedway. TX Votes is a non-partisan student organization that not only hopes to get students educated and registered to vote but works hard to do so.
By visiting over 100 classrooms this spring semester alone, there’s no question that they’ve made a recognizable name for themselves.
“I think as an organization, we have grown, which means that our outreach has grown ” Kassie Phebillo, Program Coordinator said.
Phebillo, who’s been with TX votes since that last general election, attributes the increased number of students they’ve registered to their in-class initiative that they started in 2018.
“We’ve registered probably 5,000 students this school year since the beginning of fall,” Phebillo said.
Their efforts to register students before the deadline at the beginning of February contribute to the steady increase of student voter registration on campus. The National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement saw a 3,948 increase in voter registrations on campus between 2016 and 2018, so it’s no doubt that TX Votes’ work contributes to the positive growth of engaged and registered voters at UT.
And while TX Votes may be one of the most notable student organizations in the political-sphere – they attribute their recent successes and increases in student activity to the rest of the Civic Engagement Alliance. Without whom they couldn’t have hosted their Last Day to Register to Vote Celebration.
Now that the registration deadline has passed, the next goal for TX Votes includes getting students ready for the polls. With Early Voting and Super Tuesday dates coming up quickly, one-way TX Votes prepares for the hopeful flood of student voters is by ordering and distributing voting guides provided by the League of Women Voters.
“It’s basically a little newsletter with all these races. So, it’s like here’s a statement from this candidate and then their picture, and another one and their background for like all the races,” TX Votes President Anthony Zhang explained.
These portable voting guides work to ease first-time voters or any voter who may be put off by the process. TX Votes hopes to distribute these guides to students to ensure no one is misinformed or uneducated before stepping into the polls for what may be the first time.
“I feel like one of the main reasons that people will say that they aren’t engaged with politics, or nervous, or vibe, or like don’t want to is because they don’t know about a lot of stuff. So, there’s like a huge learning curve too,” Zhang said.
Along with helping educate voters, the guides distributed by TX Votes will prevent students from using their phones to remember or look up who to vote for, an action that may seem benign but in reality, comes with legal consequences. “We also provide them with what they need when they go in to vote. So, they’re not accidentally breaking the law.” Phebillo said.
With the national attention to the primary drama in Iowa, TX Votes combats any nerves voters may feel ahead of the Texas primary with accurate information, student-to-student engagement, and space where students can ask any questions regarding the civic engagement process.
See below for important info:
Early Voting in Texas: Check out the FAC & PCL from 7 am-7 pm to vote!
– February 18th-28th, 2020
Primary Election Day (Super Tuesday): Check out the FAC & PCL from 7 am-7 pm to vote!