City of Austin May 2021 Election Frequently Asked Questions
How did these items get on the ballot?
There are two main ways to get an item on the ballot. First, an item can get on a ballot if 20,000 signatures are added to a petition and City Council takes action to put the item on the ballot. Any items related to charter amendments must be voted on by Austin citizens. Second, an item can also be placed on the ballot if the City Council votes to add it to a ballot.
Propositions A and C were initiated by the City Council.
Proposition B and Propositions D, E, F, G, and H were initiated through signatures gathered on petitions.
What is a city charter?
A city charter is the “constitution” of a city. It includes how its governing works, basic functions of the government, and election rules. Changing a charter requires the vote of the citizens of the city. Propositions A, D, E, F, G, and H are charter amendments.
Does RECA have a voter guide?
Yes. You can find the printable RECA Voter Guide here.
When can I go vote?
Early voting is April 19 through April 27, and Election Day is May 1.
Currently, the City of Austin has a council-manager form of government. This means that the 11-member Austin City Council, led by a mayor with no specially-designated power or control, gives direction to the City Manager, who serves as the City’s CEO. The City Manager oversees all departments and implements guidance and direction from Council.
What is a strong mayor system of government?
A strong mayor system of government is one where the “CEO” position of the City is designated to the mayor, and there is no longer a City Manager overseeing all departments. Beyond that, the “strength” of the strong mayor varies. According to the Proposition F ballot language, the mayor has the power to hire and fire staff of departments, make decisions on the direction of departments, and override (veto) Council directives. Prop F would also give the mayor the power to set the city budget, and there would be no independent elected auditor to oversee the mayor, the way there is in Houston.
What other cities have a council-manager or strong mayor system of government?
The only major city in Texas with a strong mayor is the City of Houston.
Cities in Texas with a council-manager system include Austin, El Paso, San Antonio, Fort Worth, and Dallas.
Cities nationally with a council-manager system include Phoenix, San Jose, Las Vegas, Sacramento, and Durham.
Cities nationally with a strong mayor include San Francisco, Seattle, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, Detroit, Boston, and Denver.
Austin’s current mayor is Steve Adler. He was first elected in 2014 and was reelected in 2018. His term expires in 2022, and he is not permitted under Austin’s charter to seek reelection without signatures from 5% of the City’s population indicating their support for extending his term limits.
When is the next mayoral election?
The next mayoral election will be in 2022. If Prop D passed, a new mayor would be elected in 2022 and serve a two-year term. The next mayoral election after 2022 would be in either 2024 (if Prop D passes), or 2026 (if Prop D doesn’t pass).
Does the Austin mayor currently have veto power?
The Austin mayor currently does not have veto power. Their voting powers are the same as any other council member.
Who currently sets the City budget?
The budget is currently set by the Austin City Manager through the budget office. The City Manager brings the proposed budget to the City Council each September for them to make amendments to and vote on.
Is the City Manager currently required to follow Council direction?
The City Manager is required to follow council direction.
How are public campaign vouchers funded?
The funding mechanism for the public campaign vouchers was not outlined in Proposition H. If Prop H passes, City Council would have the power via ordinance to decide how to fund it. It could be funded through the City’s General Fund, a property tax increase, or another mechanism. Estimates put the cost of the program at around $2 million for the first year.
What is ranked-choice voting?
Ranked-choice voting allows voters to rank candidates by preference, meaning they submit ballots that list not only their first-choice candidate for a position, but also their second, third and so on. In elections with ranked-choice voting, there are not separate runoff elections after Election Day. The second-and third-choice votes are counted to determine who wins the election if no candidate receives a majority of the votes.
What other cities or states have ranked-choice voting?
The state of Maine has ranked-choice voting at all levels of elections.
Some cities that have ranked-choice voting for local elections include New York, San Francisco, Boulder, Oakland, and Minneapolis.
What are the current council districts?
You can view a map of the 10 current Austin city council districts here: austintexas.gov/GIS/CouncilDistrictMap. These may change after the redistricting process is completed in 2021 or early 2022.