Cumulative Voting -- A Commonly Used Proportional Representation MethodIn cumulative voting, voters cast as many votes as there are seats. But unlike winner-take-all systems, voters are not limited to giving only one vote to a candidate. Instead, they can put multiple votes on one or more candidates. For instance, in an election for a five-seat body, voters could choose to give one vote each to five candidates, two votes to one candidate and three to another, or all five votes to a single candidate. If a members of minority group work together and get behind a single candidate, "plumping" all of their votes on him or her, they can hope to get someone elected, even if they only make up a small share of the population. Voting rights scholar Lani Guinier has promoted cumulative voting as a colorblind means to provide fair minority representation.
Cumulative voting was used to elect the Illinois state legislature from 1870 to 1980. In recent years it has been used to resolve voting rights cases for city council elections in Amarillo (TX) and Peoria (IL), for county commission elections in Chilton County (AL) and for school board elections in Sisseton (SD) and more than fifty other jurisdictions; in most cases a member from the protected minority was elected following the implementation of cumulative voting. Cumulative voting in 1994 was imposed by a federal judge in a Maryland voting rights case.
Many corporations use cumulative voting to elect their Boards of Directors, in order to represent the interests of minority shareholders. About 10% of the S&P 500 use cumulative voting, including Aon, Toys 'R' Us, Walgreen's and Hewlett-Packard. Several condominium associations use cumulative voting so that all unit owners are represented on the board.