Opponents of Proposition 1 accuse ridesharing companies of running illegal campaign

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — The group “Our City, Our Safety, Our Choice” held a news conference Wednesday afternoon to share their concerns over tactics they claim are being used by supporters of Proposition 1.

Opponents of Prop 1 are also questioning what they call corporate marketing for political purposes. They showed examples of mailers being sent out by Uber that the group says could be considered a campaign violation.

“Our democracy relies on transparency in campaigns, and there is a lack of transparency here,” explains Laura Morrison, former Austin city council member.

Our City, Our Safety, Our Choice also says Uber and Lyft offering free rides to polling places could be considered “buying votes.”

“Did Uber and Lyft in offering the discounts and free rides, intend to offer a benefit to influence people’s vote?” says Fred Lewis, with Our City, Our Safety, Our Choice, who is also an Austin lawyer specializing in ethics and elections laws. “We’re asking for the district attorney and the county authorities to investigate them.”

The anti-Prop 1 group also claims Uber, Lyft and Ridesharing Works for Austin are keeping campaign finance reports a secret, using corporate marketing for political purposes, and spam texting and calling without customer consent.

After scrolling through pictures of flyers, text messages and mailers generated by Uber and Ridesharing Works for Austin, local election law attorney Trey Trainor did not spot anything he would consider illegal. He said a company has a right to send as much advertising material as they wish, and Uber and Lyft have offered free rides for other elections.

“We see in every campaign that takes place where candidates and others will get their supporters and say, ‘Hey, if you don’t have a ride to the poll on Tuesday to vote give us a call and we’ll find somebody.”‘ said Trainor.

He also said anyone who has ever signed up with Uber or Lyft has likely signed off on a service agreement and consented to receiving information from the companies.

In Uber’s terms of service it states, “We may use the information we collect about you to…send you communications we think will be of interest to you, including…news and events of Uber… according to local laws.”

Former Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell who is working and getting paid by Ridesharing Works, the group supporting Prop 1 told KXAN his PAC has done nothing wrong.

“I’m very confident they’ve dotted every ‘i’ and crossed every ‘t’,” said Leffingwell. “If they’ve got a complaint, file it, have it investigated. Instead of trying to air it in the court of public opinion.”

In an email, Ridesharing Works writes,”It’s clear opponents of Prop. 1 are desperate because they would rather try and distract voters than discuss the merits of the issue.”

Lawsuit filed against Uber

A class-action lawsuit was filed against Uber, claiming the ridesharing company was illegally sending unwanted and robo-text messages to users.

Uber released the following statement in response to the lawsuit:

We have taken great precaution to comply with applicable laws and believe the claims in this lawsuit are meritless. The announcement of this action at an anti-Prop 1 press conference also reveals how it was designed to unduly influence the election.”

You can read the full Uber lawsuit here.

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