Policy Priorities

I’m running to bring new, pro-voter ideas here to Travis County. I want to help Travis County lead the state in voter access— with the shortest lines and the highest turnout in Texas. Our goal is for every eligible voter to be not only registered, but consistently voting in every single election. These policies will help make our county more equitable, efficient, and inclusive.

1. Expand Voting Options in Travis County

What’s the number one reason non-voters give for not voting? Long lines. A bipartisan Presidential Commission on Election Administration concluded that no voter should have to wait more than 30 minutes to vote. Polling locations in areas such as the University of Texas campus, Pflugerville, and Manor have consistently had wait times of 1 hour or more in the 2016, 2018, and 2020 elections. Young people, people of color, and people with disabilities are disproportionately impacted by long wait times.

Consistent long lines indicate a consistent undersupply of voting options. As the population of our county continues to grow, I will significantly expand the number of voting locations in Travis County, focusing in particular on those communities that have repeatedly experienced long lines and/or lack of polling locations (University of Texas campus, Pflugerville, Manor, and others). Through analysis of historical data and projections for future elections, we can improve allocation of polling locations, polling machines, and poll workers to substantially reduce the incidence of long lines.

Finally, I will strive to implement additional pro-voter innovations such as 24-hour voting, drive through voting, and increased access to voting by mail. While efforts at the state level continue to attempt to block these useful and important policies, I will fight to make these options a reality for voters in Travis County.

2. Raise the Poll Worker Wage to $15 / Hour

Poll workers are essential workers and the backbone of our electoral process. Historically, senior citizens and retirees have taken on the lion’s share of this responsibility (the average age of a poll worker in Travis County is 72). However, the COVID-19 pandemic revealed the urgency of recruiting the next generation of guardians of our democracy. Additionally, it’s important that poll workers reflect the demographics of the communities they serve.

One important way to build the pipeline of election workers is through investing in young people. I will expand the size and responsibilities of the Student Election Clerk program, in which high school students who are 16 years of age or older can serve as poll workers. I will use the award-winning Harris County program as a model, empowering Student Election Clerks to serve as bilingual translators, Electronics Support Specialists, or Curbside Voting buzzer system respondents to provide speedy service to voters with disabilities.

I will show how our community values poll workers by raising the minimum election worker wage to $15/hour. Currently, Travis County poll workers only make $10/hour. We must expand the investment, training, and mentorship opportunities for everyone working in elections in Travis County.

3. Build the Best Countywide Elections App in Texas

74% of Millennials (born between 1981 to 1996) and 78% of Gen Z (born between 1997 to 2015) consider their mobile devices their most important device to go online. In fact, a recent Pew survey found that 17% of all Americans are “smartphone-only” users, including 23% of Black Americans and 25% of Hispanic Americans. Given this information, Travis County’s desktop-based website needs to be made more accessible and mobile-friendly to include all voters.

To address these trends, other counties such as El Paso and Galveston have built mobile apps, allowing voters to access key information such as dates for upcoming elections, early voting locations, sample ballots, and more.

If elected, I will oversee the development of an app for all voters that would provide election notifications, integration to map applications, and options to create calendar appointments. These tangible features would further assist voters in taking specific steps to “make a plan to vote,” further increasing participation in every future election. Given Austin’s status as a national tech hub, I have no doubt that Travis County could build the most helpful, well-designed, and user-friendly countywide elections app in Texas.

4. Increase Outreach to New and Underserved Voters

Travis County has struggled with low turnout in many elections. Turnout was only 9.73% in the December 2020 runoff election, and only 22.57% for the May 2021 ballot referendums. There are a variety of reasons for consistent low turnout, but there is more the county could be doing to increase our outreach and encourage higher turnout.

I will increase our efforts to include more communities in voting by adding Chinese and Vietnamese (in addition to English and Spanish) to all of our voting notices, forms, websites, and other materials relating to the electoral process (following the lead of the League of Women Voters Austin Voting Guide as well as Harris County Elections). This is essential, because in addition to the over 265,000 native Spanish speakers in Travis County, we are also home to approximately 13,000 native Chinese speakers and 10,000 native Vietnamese speakers.

Second, voter ID laws, voting machines, and other aspects of elections may be unfamiliar and intimidating to many new voters. If elected, I will work to expand our outreach to new voters, including by hosting regular presentations for groups such as high schoolers, college students, and newly naturalized citizens.

Third, social media is an essential way to connect with many new and underserved voters. We should collaborate with affinity-based community organizations that already have strong social media presences in order to amplify our message. By expanding the Travis County Clerk’s Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter followings (and yes, even by starting a TikTok...#ClerkTok), we can make sure voting is not just something we care about once every four years, but a lifelong civic habit.

5. Pandemic-Proof the Clerk’s Office

In addition to administering elections, the Travis County Clerk’s office is responsible for managing an enormous amount of data for the county, including court documents, marriage records, and even livestock brands.

In an age of increasing remote work and flexible work-life balance, I will strive to continue digitizing all documents and allowing telecommuting wherever possible. In this way, the Travis County Clerk’s office will become pandemic-proof, save taxpayer money on office costs, and adapt to the changing nature of our work norms.

6. Create a Travis County Clerk’s Community Advisory Board

Travis County makes appointments to numerous boards and commissions such as the Animal Advisory Commission, Austin-Travis County Emergency Medical Services Advisory Board, and the Housing Authority of Travis County.

If elected, I will propose the creation of a Travis County Clerk's Community Advisory Board to provide oversight, accountability, and recommendations for areas of continuous improvement. This diverse, resident-led group of community, nonprofit, and business leaders would collaborate to offer feedback and a voice for all residents of Travis County on issues related to elections administration and records management.

7. Evaluate a Transition to a Travis County Office of Elections Administration

Travis County is the only one of the largest 10 counties in Texas by population which still uses a split system for voting responsibilities—the Travis County Tax Assessor-Collector runs voter registration, and the Travis County Clerk administers elections. Our current divided voter registration/elections system is outdated, inefficient, and rooted in the discriminatory practices of Jim Crow and the poll tax. As recently as 1966, the tax assessor-collector had to determine whether or not this tax was paid before you could register to vote.

On my first day in office, I will initiate a project to analyze the impact of transitioning to a County Elections Administrator system. This project will culminate in a report outlining the feasibility, timeline, and considerations involved in bringing together the election duties currently split between the county clerk and tax assessor-collector into a single office: Travis County Elections, run by an appointed, nonpartisan county elections administrator. The report will be submitted to the Travis County Commissioners Court for review by no later than July 1, 2023.