City Prop 1 and 2 pass, Austin to have November city elections

Joshua Fechter

Voters decided to move the City of Austin’s general election from May to November and institute new term limits for the mayor and city council members after voters approved two ballot initiatives Tuesday.

77 percent voted in favor of Proposition 1 — a separate initiative from Central Health’s proposition to increase property taxes to partially fund a proposed UT medical school and teaching hospital — to move the election of City Council members to November. 23 percent voted against it.

Proposition 2 will move City Council elections to November and institute a limit of two, four-year terms for the mayor and city council members. In addition, elections will take place during even-numbered years alongside gubernatorial and presidential elections. 76 percent voted in favor of the proposition and 24 percent voted against it.

Mayor Lee Leffingwell said moving city elections to November in even-numbered years will increase civic participation because citizens will educate themselves about local political topics in addition to national topics.

“Austinites will benefit from having a larger voter turnout,” Leffingwell said.

According to the Travis County Clerk, 7.4 percent of 444,139 registered voters in the city of Austin voted in the May 2011 election. Only 1.92 percent of 584,919 registered voters in Travis County participated in the May 2010 election.

In contrast, about 56 percent of 495,735 registered Austin voters participated in this year’s November election. 38.39 percent of 460,994 registered Austin voters participated in the November 2010 mid-term election and 66.12 percent of the 302,426 registered voters in Travis County voted in the November 2008 election.

The city estimates it will save $255,000 per City Council election if elections are moved from May to November, according to the city’s budget office.
The city will save $765,000 over three elections between 2013 and 2017.

Last year, the Austin City Council voted to continue holding the city’s elections in May and allow voters to decide whether to move the election to November.

Council Member Chris Riley said Austin will see more citizen involvement in governance issues as a result of the propositions’ passage.

“We’re positioned to see a whole new level of engagement in civic participation,” Riley said. “I think the days of single-digit participation are over.”