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KUT News Staff
Watching the Returns With Austinites for Geographic Representation
By 8 p.m. the mood at Opal Divine's was already celebratory, with Proposition 3 supporters pumping 10-1 signs in the air.
Members of Austinites for Geographic Representation (AGR), the backers of Prop 3 and sponsors of the watch party, were clad in 10-1 stickers. Drinks and laughter flowed freely. An oversized projector at the back of the private room displayed local election coverage.
Former State Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos – chair of the city commission that narrowly recommended the 10-1 plan, and a staunch backer of Prop 3 – greeted fellow guests. "I've been around elections for a long time," Barrientos said. "It's a weird feeling in the beginning. I never like to jump too quickly upon hearing good news, and it's been good news up to this point. If I were a betting person, I would bet that proposition three would win."
Around 8:45 p.m., former council member and mayoral candidate Brigid Shea stopped by the event. "The real test for this I think is going to be the independent citizens commission that will be selected for drawing the lines," Shea said. "I feel like that's a better process than having elected officials draw boundary lines. It's got to be done very carefully. And I think we're going to continue to see a lot of change and change is frequently very difficult."
AGR’s Linda Curtis was a little more certain. Around that same time, she was passing around "thank you" fliers to the night's guests. "We did absolutely make history tonight," she said.
At 9:15 p.m AGR spokesperson Jessica Ellison shared her enthusiasm with the crowd. "We are holding steady at 59 percent and the Election Day totals for Prop 4 [the competing 8-2-1 plan] are down now to 47 percent,” she said. “I want to paraphrase one of my favorite Texas women, Ann Richards: 'We are letting the people in!’”
By 10:30 p.m., the crowd has dwindled some. On Opal Divine's outdoor deck, longtime Texas politico David Van Os received a call from his mother: Barack Obama has been re-elected as the next president of the United States. A small cheer inside of Opal Divine’s confirms this update. "I'm really excited to hear that news!" Van Os says.
Still, this group is waiting out the night for another win: for Prop 3. By 11 p.m., the numbers hold strong for a favorable outcome. "It's historic," says Ellison. "Austin has been trying since the gentlemen's agreement in the 70's to overturn the at-large system. They've tried six times through ballot initiatives. The system has been taken to court, and lost unfortunately. This is the first time that the people of Austin ever put a plan for geographic representation on the ballot. And I believe that it's going to be the first time that it passes!"