AUSTIN, Texas - Tuesday, April 27 is the final day of early voting ahead of the May election. From Austin to surrounding communities, there are several issues on the ballot that could shape the future of these cities and towns, and those issues, officials say, are already driving turnout.
Generally speaking, the May election is marked by very low turnout, but Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir says things are different this year. When all is said and done, she anticipates around 30% total turnout, when you combine both early and Election Day voting—and that’s significant for a spring election.
"I think because some of these issues in this text ballot are so hot and about bigger thinking especially the city of Austin items. There are a lot of issues about the future of our government on this ballot, so I think this one is going to be much better attended than previous elections with just a text ballot before the voters," said DeBauvoir. "I anticipate at least half if not more will turn out for early voting."
In Austin, there are eight propositions on the ballot. The homeless camping ban is getting the most attention, alongside a proposition to switch to a strong mayor system and another to change the mayoral election to align with the presidential.
In addition, voters will decide whether to change how the city negotiates with the Austin Firefighters Association, whether to approve ranked-choice voting, whether to add an 11th city council district, whether to give the city council power to appoint the police oversight director, and whether to let voters allocate public money to fund their preferred candidates.
"If all of these pass, every single thing that the city of Austin does is fundamentally changed," said Dr. Brian Smith, a political science professor at St. Edward’s University.
There are also some important bond issues in several communities. In school districts like Burnet, Jarrell, Liberty Hill and Hays Consolidated ISD, there are tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars in school improvements on the ballot.
Polls are open until 7 p.m. Tuesday, and Election Day is this Saturday, May 1.