Texas Supreme Court Denies Bid to Change Ride-Hailing Ballot Language

Mar 14, 2016

Austin's ridesharing vote will go ahead as planned, it seems.

The Texas Supreme Court denied a request to order a rewrite of ballot language that Austin voters will consider in May regarding regulations for ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft.

Austin resident Samantha Phelps filed a writ with the Supreme Court last week, arguing the language approved by the Austin City Council would mislead voters.

The ballot measure calls for the approval or denial of an ordinance written by a political action committee paid for by Uber and Lyft. The group gathered thousands of signatures from Austin residents to get the ordinance on the May 7 ballot. It would overturn an ordinance passed by the City Council in December that requires drivers for ride-hailing companies to get fingerprint-based background checks. 

The approved ballot language reads:

Shall the City Code be amended to repeal City Ordinance number 20151217-075 relating to Transportation Network Companies; and replace with an ordinance that would repeal and prohibit required fingerprinting, repeal the requirement to identify the vehicle with a distinctive emblem, repeal the prohibition against loading and unloading passengers in a travel lane, and require other regulations for Transportation Network Companies?

Phelps, who partnered with the political action committee known as Ridesharing Works for Austin to gather signatures for the petition effort, said the language negatively characterized the ballot measure.

“The adopted ballot language wholly fails to inform voters as to what they are voting for,” Phelps' argued in the filing. “The Council falsely portrayed the Proposed Ordinance as something that only takes away and does not give. That portrayal could not be further from the truth.”

The ballot language was scheduled to be finalized today. Without comment, the Supreme Court denied the request to put a hold on the ballot language.