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Active Austin citizens explain their motivation to vote

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Travis County election officials expected a turnout of between 8.5 and 13 percent of registered voters to show up at the polls Saturday, and those numbers aren't likely to be wrong.

Still, a handful of voters trickled into one South Austin polling place to do their civic duty.

"I think it's a good example for our kids," Austin resident Michelle Smith said. "What great way to be involved in the community and know what's going on."

Smith turned up at the polls not long after they opened at 7 a.m. She said that, although none of the current council members live in South Austin, she has faith in their ability to represent her.

"There are people that are running that are community, neighborhood-oriented folks; downtown neighborhood-oriented folks. I think that's important to us," she said.

Currently, the mayor and six council members are elected at large by voters from across the city, but Mayor Lee Leffingwell is has proposed the addition of two members to the council, with six elected from smaller, single-member districts, and the mayor and two council members elected at large.

"I think that would be ideal; it would be nice, but I don't think that's necessary as long as people have a feeling for the communities," Smith said.

Three seats are up for grabs in Austin's city council race, where incumbents Chris Riley (Place 1), Randi Shade (Place 3) and Laura Morrison (Place 4) each face multiple challengers.

Smith said she and her husband make a concerted effort to vote in every election no matter who's on the ballot, but that the negative tone races can take sometimes bothers her.She wonders if the mudslinging keeps some people from going to the polls.

"It's disappointing that even local elections — small elections — can be kind of ugly. For the most part, I think people are trying to get involved and show support for their candidates," she said.

Dan Kreusher said he spent time researching those running for Austin City Council and headed to the polls with his mind made up.

"If you don't vote, I guess you can't really complain too much. I think it's your civic duty to go out and vote," he said.

The Travis County Clerk said she's prepared for a runoff election for any or all three of the Austin City Council seats.

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