Editor’s note: The Daily Texan Editorial Board offers our take on Proposition 1 and 4 in the Austin special election here. Early voting is happening now until Nov. 2, and general voting takes place on Nov. 6. You can find polling locations and other voting information online at votetexas.gov.
Proposition 1: YES
Proposition 1 in the Austin special election asks voters if the general election date should be moved from May to November. This is an easy “yes.” Moving the election date will ensure UT students are more likely to participate in the election, which determines Austin’s mayor and city council members. Under the current election schedule, these positions receive little attention from college-aged voters. Proposition 1 stands to increase participation in city government among all city residents, not just UT students, by grouping city elections with national elections. And the city will save money by combining election costs. We join Student Government in endorsing Proposition 1.
Proposition 4: YES
Proposition 4 entails a change to the city charter that would refashion the city council. Instead of a seven-member body of at-large councilpersons and the mayor, the council would consist of an eleven-member body that would be made up of two at-large councilpersons, eight council members representing specific geographic districts within the city and the mayor. The council structure suggested by the proposition balances local and city-wide interests by including at-large members on the council.
Students stand to benefit from the single-member geographic districts mandated by Proposition 4 because the city council members who would represent council districts with high student populations — those that might include West Campus, Riverside and the Forty Acres — would advocate for student issues at city council. Stories in the Texan and columns run on this page suggest that the city would do well to pay more attention to the concerns of students, and single-member city council districts are a better way to attune the city to students’ needs. The power of the student vote, which under the current all at-large council setup is diluted by non-student voters in the rest of the city, would encourage candidates vying for council positions that represent student populations to pay attention to student concerns.
Single-member geographic districts are also central to Proposition 3, a competing ballot item that calls for ten council members from single-member geographic districts and no at-large members. The omission of at-large members creates a situation wherein council members would be focused on the districts they represent, possibly at the expense of the well-being of the city as a whole. The inclusion of at-large council members in Proposition 4 provides a better balance between localized and city-wide concerns, while expanding the council to better represent the needs of our growing and diverse city.