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May 2022 Austin Special Election Ballot Proposition: Voter Resource
Ballot Language: Shall an initiative ordinance be approved to (1) eliminate enforcement of low-level marijuana offenses and (2) ban the use of “no knock” warrants by Austin police?
Translation: For once, the ballot language here is fairly straightforward. A “yes” vote indicates that you think low-level marijuana offenses shouldn’t be enforced and that no-knock warrants should be banned. No-knock warrants allow law enforcement officers to enter homes without knocking or ringing a doorbell. Though the Austin Police Department has agreed it won’t cite people for small amounts of marijuana, it’s just part of the police manual and the policy could easily be changed. It’s worth noting that if you vote for one of these, you vote for the other, as the two questions appear as one joint item on the ballot.
Under state law, anyone can compel a charter election or referendum by submitting a petition signed by 5 percent of voters in the city or 20,000 people, whichever is less. Once that is done, City Council has the option of adopting the contents of the petition as law or setting an election at the next available election day, in the case of amendments to city code. In the case of petitions that contain charter amendments, an election must be set. This special election follows a campaign by the nonprofit Ground Game Texas that collected over 30,000 signatures supporting the initiatives.
State law also requires voter approval for changes to the state constitution. All of the proposed amendments on the ballot were approved as bills during the most recent Texas legislative session. In order for them to be officially added to the constitution, they must be approved by a majority of Texas voters.
For neutral information on the constitutional amendments up for a vote, you might want to check out the Voters Guide from the League of Women Voters Austin Area. (Propositions 1 and 2 appear on pages 5 and 6, respectively.) For a little more depth, here are some articles:
- April 25: First day of in-person early voting
- Check here to see if you are registered to vote
- May 3: Last day of in-person early voting
- May 7: Election day
Where do I vote in person?
In Travis County, registered voters may cast their ballots at any voting location, both during early voting and on election day. You can find a list of those locations and voting times on the website of the Travis County Clerk’s Office. While the election is underway, the clerk’s office also hosts a map that includes wait times at locations.
What do I need to know on voting day?
In order to cast a ballot, residents must be registered to vote, which can be confirmed online. Texans not previously registered can do so online, though that must be done 30 days before the election date and printed applications must be mailed.
In general, voters in Texas must bring photo ID to the polls. Under these rules, a photo ID can be a Texas driver’s license, Texas election identification certificate, Texas personal identification card, Texas handgun license, U.S. military card (with a photo), U.S. citizenship certificate (with a photo), or U.S. passport. Voters aged 18-69 may use a form of ID that is expired, if that expiration date is four years old or less. Voters 70 and older may use IDs that have expired more than four years ago. Registered voters who are not able to obtain a photo ID may vote by signing a Voter’s Declaration of Reasonable Impediment or Difficulty along with providing a non-photo ID that includes their address.
A number of common-sense rules tend to be posted at polling locations. This memo from the Texas director of elections does a good job of running through those rules. In short: firearms, electioneering, collecting signatures on a petition and wireless devices are not allowed within the 100-foot markers at each polling location. Electioneering is actively campaigning for something on the ballot, and that 100-foot perimeter expands to 1,000 feet if you are doing it via amplified sound. Wireless devices include cell phones, cameras, tablets, laptops and sound recorders. However, some exceptions are made for people with disabilities.
How do I decide how to vote?
How you vote is your decision, but there are several ways to get informed about the issues that will be on the ballot. In addition to our coverage of the election, several outlets around town have information on the election. (Note: The Austin Monitor does not endorse any of these endorsements, though we do read them.)
Endorsements (as they become available)
- The Austin Chronicle: Chronicle Endorsements for the May 7 State and Local Election
- The Austin-American Statesman: Austin voters should relax pot laws, outlaw no-knock raids
Guides (as they become available)
Why should I vote?
Austin has a great record when it comes to voter registration; more than 97 percent of Travis County residents are registered to vote. However, we tend to fall short when it comes to local elections.
We generally do OK in presidential elections. In Travis County, the November 2020 election saw turnout just slightly over 71 percent of all registered voters. But in May 2019, only 6 percent of registered voters in Travis County bothered to vote.
Local elections have the potential to fundamentally change the way Austin operates, and a strong democracy relies on voter participation.