Students deliberate Uber, Lyft ahead of special election

Zach Lyons

With a special election to determine the fate of Uber and Lyft in Austin on the horizon, members of Students for Ridesharing have been tabling across campus, registering students to vote.

The May 7 ballot will determine whether the City of Austin can require all Uber and Lyft drivers to undergo fingerprint background checks. In addition, the proposed amendment could repeal an existing regulation requiring vehicles to be marked with a distinctive emblem, along with repealing a ban on loading and unloading in travel lanes. Lyft has stated in previous reports that a mandatory fingerprinting ordinance would “force” them to leave Austin.

Corportate communications junior Kelsi Kamin, a member of Students for Ridesharing, is working with Uber’s marketing team in a paid position to help get the Greek community involved with the issue. Kamin said the UT community as a whole can play a large role in the upcoming special election.

“[As] a student body of 40,000, we’re the best positioned to make a difference in the outcome of this vote. We need to understand that this is real, this is happening, this is a service we all use on a daily or weekly basis,” Kamin said. “If it were gone, we’d really feel the consequences of it.”

Steven Hester, mathematics sophomore and president of Students for Ridesharing, said in an email that students’ “quality of life is on the line” in the coming election, and his group is working to accommodate student schedules.

“The election takes place when we are prepping for finals, so we are helping students make plans to visit the FAC during the early vote periods,” Hester said.

Early voting starts April 25 and ends May 3. All students who are registered in Travis County can vote in the election. 

Advertising junior Hannah Dobbs said she disagrees with the group’s mission.

“It’s really important for Uber and Lyft drivers to be fingerprinted and go through a rigorous background check,” Dobbs said. “Cab drivers go through the same process — it’s just a safety issue more than anything. I don’t agree with them, but I think it’s important that both sides of the issue voice our opinions.”

Hester said while some of the students tabling are being paid by ridesharing companies, they’re primarily involved because they care about the issue.

“We’ll be out here until we win this election because ridesharing keeps us safe,” Hester said.