Groups promoting Austin's competing police oversight ballot measures have spent nearly $310,000 ahead of the May election after raising more than $393,000 in total this year, most of which came in support for Proposition A.

What's happening?

The city's May 6 election features two items both called the "Austin Police Oversight Act" concerning police accountability and transparency, including investigations into officers. The first, Proposition A, was developed by the criminal justice group Equity Action while the second, Proposition B, is modeled on the original proposition and backed by Voters for Oversight and Police Accountability.

Equity Action is linked with the local Democratic party and has drawn endorsements from several community groups and elected officials through the Yes on A No on B campaign. VOPA received hundreds of thousands of dollars of its original funding from the Austin Police Association while petitioning to get its measure on the ballot last year.

The election comes months after City Council decided to push off approval of a new contract with the police association, a process involving some bargaining over Austin's police oversight framework.

Council members did not vote on a four-year deal that city and police negotiators had tentatively agreed to in February that included some oversight updates. Instead, they directed the city's labor team to come up with a shorter one-year contract to allow the results of the May election to potentially influence Austin's next longer-term agreement with its police union.

The police association did not return to the negotiating table to discuss a one-year deal, and the contract expired in March with some extended provisions for officers approved by council.

By the numbers

Both Equity Action and VOPA have raised and spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on Proposition A and Proposition B since last summer, although the police union-backed organization has been significantly outraised and outspent this year while reporting far less financial activity.

In 2023, Equity Action brought in more than $383,000 and spent more than $307,000 promoting Proposition A, according to campaign finance reports covering Jan. 1-April 26. Most contributions came earlier in the year, and spending on consulting, advertising and personnel continued through April. Equity Action reported having nearly $250,500 on hand a week before the election.

The group drew almost 250 individual donations ranging from $6.63 to several hundreds of dollars. The bulk of campaign contributions were made up of $250,000 from the California-based Heising-Simons Foundation and $125,000 from the Tulsa-based Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Philanthropies.
In 2023, VOPA drew just over $10,000 and has spent around $1,700 on supporting Proposition B. The group ramped up spending in the month ahead of the election and reported just over $9,000 remaining as of April 26.

A dozen individuals pledged between $10 to $2,500 to VOPA, while the group's largest contribution of $5,000 came from a Fort Worth Police Officer's Association political committee.
The new finance reports offer the last glimpse of the campaigns' fundraising and spending ahead of election day.

How to vote

Austin's early voting period ends May 2 at 7 p.m. Election day is on May 6, and registered voters can cast a ballot at any of dozens of polling places throughout the city between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m.