Elections 101
Elections 101

Elections are a powerful thing. It might sound cliche, but they really are one of the best ways to make your voice be heard and create a positive impact on this world. 


But they also can be really confusing! With so many names on the ballot and the craziness that comes with a 24-hour news cycle, it can be hard to figure out what you’re even supposed to pay attention to. 


At The Austin Common, we’re dedicated to actually explaining the news and giving you the tools you need to cast an informed ballot by Election Day, with a special focus on local elections. After all, these are the races that can have the biggest impact on your everyday life… and they’re often the ones that get ignored. 


So, calling all first-time voters, sometimes voters, overwhelmed/busy voters, and disenchanted-with-national-elections-voters, these resources are for you!

Keep an eye on this page, because as we get closer to the next election, we’ll be posting all our easy-to-read election guides right here! Want to make sure you don’t miss anything? Be sure to follow us on Instagram (@The_Austin_Common) and/or subscribe to our weekly email newsletter

Help us make our election coverage even better! Fill out this short online survey and shape what our election coverage looks like in 2024. 

  • We’ll actually explain all those confusing races on the bottom of your ballot… and why they matter to you. After all, who can remember what a comptroller does?
  • We’ll keep it local. We focus on City of Austin mayoral & City Council elections.
  • We’ll make it easy to understand. You don’t have to be a political science major to read our election guides. They’re designed for everyone!
  • We’ll make it shareable. Democracy is more fun with a friend! All of our guides are available on our website, in our weekly email newsletter, and on social media… that way they’re easy to share with that friend who you’re always reminding to vote. 
  • We’ll keep it nonpartisan. With our election guides, we try and focus more on the issues you care about (housing affordability, traffic, etc.) and less on the back-and-forth bickering between political parties. 
  • We’ll keep it positive. This doesn’t mean glossing over the truth or ignoring the reality of bad situations. It means we won’t focus on the negative without also covering possible solutions or opportunities for you to get involved. We believe that learning about local elections should be fun and empowering (not depressing and frustrating)!

Who is your election coverage for? 

All Austinites are welcome to read our election guides, but we design them specifically to serve first-time voters, sometimes-voters, and overwhelmed/busy voters. That means we avoid jargony language, actually explain the jobs these politicians running for, and provide background and context in case you’re just tuning into an issue for the first time. 

How do you decide what to cover?

It all starts with you! We don’t just publish things just to publish things. The point is to serve you, so that more people feel empowered to engage in our local democratic system. Want to help us do that even better? Fill out this short online survey

I see you that most of your coverage focuses on the City of Austin and Travis County. Do you ever focus on any of the surrounding cities or counties? 

We would love to be able to cover nearby cities and counties, but because of our small team, we simply don’t have the bandwidth to do so right now. However, it is one of our long-term goals to be able to create election guides for these areas, so if you live in Williamson County, Round Rock, Pflugerville, etc., feel free to reach out to us! We’re always interested in learning more about those communities and potential future partnership opportunities. 


How do you get the information for your election guides?

Starting several months before an election, we begin reaching out to all of the candidates running for local office and offer each and every one of them an opportunity to be interviewed. For candidates who don’t immediately respond, we reach out a minimum of three times (via phone, email, and social media) to ensure that they’ve received our interview request. If after three times we still don’t receive a response, they will not be included in our podcast episode on that race, but we will still include them in our election guide and try and use whatever resources we have available to gather info about them (League of Women Voters Guide, social media, their website, etc.). The vast majority of candidates we reach out to agree to be interviewed. 


To supplement these interviews with the candidates, we also research their professional history/backgrounds (particularly if they’ve already held elected office and have a voting/policy history) and read through/watch other candidate questionnaires and forums (from the League of Women Voters and other organizations in Austin that host forums and publicly publish candidate questionnaires.) 


All information is then fact-checked before publication. 

It seems like you cover more Democratic candidates than Republican ones. Why is that?

In Austin, our elections are nonpartisan, which means you won’t find a D or an R next to any of the candidates names. This is one of the reasons why we like reporting on local elections. It allows us to focus more on the issues and less on the parties. 


However, even if the candidates don’t officially run as Democrats or Republicans, it’s often obvious which political party they identify with. The vast majority of candidates running for local office (and holding local office) in Austin and Travis County are Democrats, which is why it might seem like they’re getting more coverage. However, in advance of an election, we reach out to all candidates who are running and offer them an opportunity for an interview. 

I love your mission of civic engagement. How can I get involved?

That’s awesome! There are three ways you can support our work:

  • Follow us on Instagram and share our civic explainers and election guides with your friends and family. 
  • Invite us to your classroom, office, pickleball league, restaurant, or book club! With our Civics 101 workshop series, we teach Austinites how our local government works and how to get involved. We offer these workshops year-round, but during election season, we add in information about what you’ll see on your local ballot. Plus, all attendees get a copy of our zine, “A Beginner’s Guide To Local Government.” Email us at info@theaustincommon.com to learn more. 
  • Join The Common Club. Memberships to our Patreon supporters club start at only $3/ a month and come with lots of fun perks, including members-only events and fun swag!

Do you make endorsements?

No. In order to honor our commitment to providing easy-to-read nonpartisan election guides to the public, we never make endorsements or express support for political candidates. 


The Next election is on... November 5th, 2024

Mark your calendars! The next election is on November 5th.  

Important dates:

  • Early voting starts on October 21st and lasts through November 1st 

  • The last date to register to vote for this election is October 7th

What will be on the ballot? We all know there’s a big presidential race on the ballot this year, but here at The Austin Common, we’ll be focusing on the local races that matter most to our community. They include… 

  • 5 City Council seats (Districts 2, 4, 6, 7 and 10). You can figure out which Council district you live in here

  • Mayor of Austin (even though Mayor Kirk Watson was just elected two years ago, we’re having another mayoral election this year, to get our city’s mayoral elections on the same timeline as presidential elections)

  • And many more!

Past Election Coverage

In May of 2024, counties across Texas had their first-ever Central Appraisal District election… And what the heck is that? We covered it all (with a focus on the appraisal district election in Travis County). 

The primary elections for president (and a few other local races) were held in Texas in March 2024. 

The Austin Common created a guide focused on the under-reported local races you need to know about! 

In November 2023, Austinites didn’t see many candidate names on their ballot… but they did see A LOT or propositions (16 to be exact).

As always, The Austin Common created guides and produced podcasts about all of them

In May of 2023, Austinites went to the polls to vote on an important issue – police oversight and accountability. Two competing proposals ended up on the ballot – Prop A & B. 


The Austin Common created an easy-to-read guide all about it… as well as a recap guide after the election was over. 

The fall of 2022 was a big election year for Austin. For the first time in eight years, we had a truly competitive mayoral election… plus, half of Austin’s 10 City Council seats were up for election. 


And that’s not all! We also had three bond elections on the ballot, funding everything from affordable housing to schools. 


The Austin Common created easy-to-read guides on all of these races and recorded six podcast episodes

May 2022 Local Elections

The May 7th, 2022 election included one local propositions + two statewide propositions. 


The local City of Austin proposition (Proposition A) decriminalized marijuana and banned no-knock warrants in Austin. 


The Austin Common created a guide covering Prop A, and statewide Props 1 & 2. We also recorded a podcast episode about Prop A

On March 1st, Texas held primary elections for dozens of statewide & local races.


The Austin Common created 7 election guides, covering races for local judicial seats, Travis County Commissioner, & Texas House District 51. 


We also recorded 2 podcast episodes and interviewed 25 candidates running for local office, with a focus on often-reported judicial positions (like County Court at Law & Justice of the Peace). 

On January 25th 2022, Austin held a special election for the District 4 City Council seat (after Council Member Greg Casar announced he was leaving office to run for Congress). 


This is an important local position, but since the election was held at such a weird time, voter awareness was low. That’s why The Austin Common created a complete election guide (that was easily shareable on Instagram) & recorded a podcast episode with the candidates. 

On November 2nd, 2021, an election was held that featured two local City of Austin propositions and eight statewide propositions. 


The Austin Common created in-depth guides on local Prop A (about police funding) and Prop  (about parks). We also created social media posts raising awareness about the election & recorded a podcast episode focused on Props A & B. 

On May 1st, 2021, the City of Austin held local elections for eight different ballot propositions, covering topics from homelessness to the very structure of our local democratic system. 


The Austin Common created easy-to-read guides for all eight of these propositions & recorded three podcast episodes. In partnership with the Greater Austin Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, we also translated all of our election guides into Spanish.

November 3rd 2020 was a major presidential election, but there were also lots of important local races on the ballot. Here at The Austin Common, we tried to make sure those local elections didn’t get ignored with our Vote Local campaign. Together with the HOPE Campaign, we installed get-out-the-vote murals (painted by local artists) alll around town. 


We created 12 election guides covering City Council races & local Prop A (which funded Project Connect, our city’s first real transit system) and Prop B (which provided funding for sidewalks & bike lanes). We also recorded six podcast episodes.