The voters in the city of Austin have spoken and they’ve told Uber and Lyft to hit the road if they so choose. Proposition 1 was defeated Saturday by voters by a 55.81 percent to 44.19 percent margin.
Polls closed Saturday and when early vote totals were released, they were almost exactly in line with the final vote. Early voting turnout in the election was 9.85 percent, while the Election Day turnout was just 5.9 percent. Out of a possible 587,486 voters, just 92,544 voters cast a ballot in the special election, or 15.75 percent.
Proposition 1 was pushed by Uber and Lyft who opposed the city’s requirement for fingerprint-based criminal background checks of drivers. Uber and Lyft wanted to people to vote for Prop 1 which would have lifted the city’s fingerprint requirement. A vote against kept the fingerprint requirement in place.
After the results came in, Austin Mayor Steve Adler said in a statement, “The people have spoken tonight loud and clear. Uber and Lyft are welcome to stay in Austin, and I invite them to the table regardless. Austin is an innovative and creative city, and we’ll need to be at our most creative and innovative now.”
Lyft announced Saturday night it would pause operations in Austin on Monday morning as a result of the vote. Uber said it would end operations in Austin, but continue serving the surrounding communities.
“Disappointment does not begin to describe how we feel about shutting down operations in Austin,” Uber said in a statement. “We hope the City Council will reconsider their ordinance so we can work together to make the streets of Austin a safer place for everyone.”
Chelsea Wilson of Lyft issued a statement that read in part:
Lyft and Austin are a perfect match and we want to stay in the city. Unfortunately, the rules passed by City Council don't allow true ridesharing to operate. Instead, they make it harder for part-time drivers, the heart of Lyft’s peer-to-peer model, to get on the road and harder for passengers to get a ride. Because of this, we have to take a stand for a long-term path forward that lets ridesharing continue to grow across the country, and will pause operations in Austin on Monday, May 9th.
But we’re not giving up. We will continue fighting for people in Austin to have modern options like Lyft. For the tens of thousands of you who spoke up in support of ridesharing, we urge you to keep making your voices heard on this important issue.
Former Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell, who campaigned on behalf of Lyft and Uber, issued a statement after the votes were counted that said:
“Unfortunately thousands of people who drive with ridesharing companies to earn much needed income will now have to find another way to make ends meet. Thousands more of our citizens and visitors from around the world will soon have one less option to get around town safely. The ballot language written by the City Council was intentionally confusing and a disservice to voters. We're disappointed in tonight's results. The benefits of ridesharing are clear: reduced drunk driving and economic opportunity. And we won't stop fighting to bring it back."
In the end, the voters in Austin said no to Uber and Lyft’s proposed regulations. That will open the door for other companies such as GetMe, which has said it would abide by the fingerprint regulation, to try to fill the void left by Uber and Lyft.
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