Voting and Housing are Two Essential Aspects of the American Dream

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The right to vote and access to affordable housing are essential to the American Dream.

In Texas, the Republican leadership has severely restricted the voting rights of women and minorities, despite the prohibitions of the Fifteenth and Nineteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Travis County residents should not allow confusion around the new Voter ID Law to keep them from exercising their right to vote. Although there is no presidential or gubernatorial race on the ballot, there are very important items on the ballot that will help determine the course of Austin and of Texas, from Constitutional Amendments to a state representative special election, to Affordable Housing Bonds.

Leaders of both the Texas Democratic and Republican Parties are supporting Proposition 6, a Constitutional Amendment that would commit about $2 billion from the Texas 'Rainy Day Fund' to water projects across the state, including Travis County Senators Kirk Watson and Judith Zaffirini. Austin, along with other cities across Texas, is continually ranked in the top 10 among places to live and work. It is imperative for Austin to help our region and state plan for expected growth by ensuring that water is available to all Texans.The special election of a new state representative in House District 50 provides voters with a decision among three Democrats and one Republican, who provide sharply contrasting visions for the future of Texas. During the 82nd Legislative Session, the Republican-led Texas Legislature cut over $5 billion from public education funding. Governor Perry and the Republican leadership have refused to expand Medicaid, depriving Texans of as much as one hundred billion dollars in federally-funded healthcare for its neediest citizens, despite the fact that our state continually ranks among the lowest in terms of percentage of insured residents. Voters should hold the Republican Party accountable by rejecting its lack of vision and electing one of three Democratic candidates: Celia Israel, Rico Reyes, or Jade Chang Sheppard.

Housing is essential to the American Dream; it is a very basic need that impacts every aspect of an individual's life. If you have ever volunteered with or been amongst those struggling to make ends meet, you understand the pressure and challenges that home insecurity causes. As Austin continues to attract residents from across the state and the U.S., the price of housing continues to escalate rapidly. This election, Austin voters have the opportunity to impact the lives of so many in one of the most important ways, by approving a $65 million Affordable Housing Bond. According to Keep Austin Affordable, a coalition of faith, business, and community leaders, the bond money will be used to repair and build new rental houses and apartments for families whose current total income is under $31,000/year for married couples and under $39,000/year for a family of 4. These bonds are expected to help people with disabilities, homeless veterans, seniors, public workers, child care providers, service industry workers, and construction workers. Approval of this bond is essential to ensuring that Austin continues to be a place that all people can call home and pursue their American Dream.

On Tuesday November 5, 2013, Austinites should help provide the American Dream for others by exercising their constitutional, hard-fought right to vote and approve affordable housing.

Vincent Harding is the Secretary of the Travis County Democratic Party.

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