Ever since Lyft started offering voters free rides to polling places to vote on the controversial Proposition One (that would be Monday, when early voting started), various media outlets, city officials, and random citizens have been asking if the move constitutes a violation of the Texas Penal Code—specifically the part that prohibits, essentially, exchanging things of value for votes.
In an article produced in conjunction with its reporting partnership with the Austin Monitor, KUT today published a story by Audrey McGlinchy investigating the issue.
McGlinchy spoke with a number of city and legal experts, including Council Member Laura Morrison and Ross Fischer, a professor at the University of Texas School of Law and previous member of the Texas Ethics Commission, about the issue. She also quoted tweets from local Democratic political consultant Harold Cook, who took issue with the ride-hailing company's free election-place ferrying, and got the input of a Lyft spokeswoman.
As McGlinchy points out, it's common for nonprofits and other groups to help get out the vote with transportation to polling places. The difference in this case, she reports, is that Lyft has a stake in the outcome of the vote.
While the conclusion of most seems to be that the fact that you don't have to prove you voted in exchange for the ride means the practice appears to be legal, some of McGlinchy's sources point out that it's a part of what to many seems to be a too-large corporate role in civic policy-making on the part of both Lyft and Uber. Both companies who have made large donations to Ridesharing Works for Austin, the primary group that gathered petitions and lobbied for the measure.