Uber, Lyft supporters registering voters on campus for upcoming ride-hailing vote

Forrest Milburn

Today marks the final opportunity for students to register to vote in the upcoming May 7 municipal election, when Austin voters will get the chance to settle controversial ride-hailing regulations at the ballot.

Anyone interested in voting in the election can stop by tables located in the South Mall and West Mall, where student volunteers opposed to the regulations — most notably fingerprint-based background checks — are registering students until midnight tonight.

Huey Rey Fischer, deputy outreach director for Ridesharing Works for Austin, said it is important for students to cast their votes in the issue of ride-hailing regulations because it is an issue that directly affects their safety.

“We want to make sure students know that if they depend on Uber and Lyft, either as a safe ride home or a supplemental source of income, they need to go to the [Flawn Academic Center] and vote,” Fischer said.

City Council members initially voted last December to install increased regulations on the ride-hailing companies into city code, with the hopes of increasing safety procedures for passengers.

Since then, the Council and ride-hailing companies have been locked in arguments over how to keep the ride-hailing companies, who have threatened to leave Austin once the regulations take effect.

The ballot measure, Proposition 1, asks voters if they would like to nullify the December vote, effectively affirming the minimal regulations that were approved in 2014 under Mayor Lee Leffingwell that originally allowed the ride-hailing companies to provide services in the city.

Therefore, a “yes” vote on the ballot measure would nullify the fingerprint-based background checks and the other December regulations, while a “no” vote would affirm them.

“I feel that students have a very different perspective than the majority of people who usually vote,” said business freshman Jackson Durbin, a volunteer with Students for Ridesharing. “Even if you don’t agree with Uber and Lyft operating as usual, it’s still really important because they could be out of town completely as a result of this.”

Supports of the December vote argue the regulations are minimal and necessary, and ride-hailing companies should not threaten to leave the city because of them.