70% of voters said yes to progressive Austin Police Oversight Act
By Maggie Q. Thompson, 12:45AM, Sun. May 7, 2023
Equity Action organizer Kathy Mitchell (r) and others celebrate during the Props A and B Election Day Results Watch Party at Lustre Pearl on May 6. (Photo by John Anderson)
The May 6 election made it clear: Austin is ready to dramatically expand civilian oversight of police.
With about 78,000 voters turning out for the May 6 election on two police oversight propositions with the same name (Austin Police Oversight Act), the progressive Prop A got approval from a resounding 70% of voters, per unofficial voting numbers. Prop B, which copy-pasted language from Prop A and then edited it to reduce oversight powers, received support from only 20% of voters.
As we observed from early voting numbers, turnout overall was not spectacular. In 2021, when a GOP-aligned PAC Save Austin Now was able to get a measure on the ballot to increase police staffing, roughly twice as many people cast a vote (and the police association-backed measure lost). A little more than 10% of Austin voters showed up this election, which is not atypical for a May election without high profile offices on the ballot.
Still, the passage of Prop A – which seeks to grant the Office of Police Oversight a whole lot of freedoms, including greater access to Austin Police Department’s internal affairs investigations – marks a huge stride for the city, and possibly the beginning of litigation over the legality of some of the measure’s language. If a court does eventually throw certain elements of the measure out, the undisputed parts of the ordinance will still stand.
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