- Alphonso Vaughn, president of Amarillo's NAACP chapter
"We were hoping one of the minority candidates would be elected. The fact that we got two minorities on the board is awesome. History was made in Amarillo."
- Nancy Bosquez, a justice of the peace and a local leader of the League of United Latin American Citizens
Over the past fifteen years, communities throughout Texas have shown their commitment to inclusive democracy by adopting cumulative voting, a proportional voting election method, for school board elections. Proportional voting has dramatically increased the opportunities for members of racial and ethnic minorities to win office, leading to the election of Latino and African Americans for the first time all over the state.
Prior to the adoption of cumulative voting, many districts like Atlanta ISD had never had a non-Anglo elected to the school board, even though African Americans, Hispanics, and other minorities were a substantial part of the population--Atlanta, for example, is 20% African American.
This changed when more than 57 Jurisdictions in Texas switched to cumulative voting between 1991 and 2000, primarily to remedy Voting Rights Act suits. In 1995, then-governor George W. Bush recognized the support for proportional voting in the state, and signed enabling legislation to allow school districts to adopt cumulative and limited voting.
Cumulative voting allows a political minority to gain representation by focusing its voting strength on one candidate. For example, the first African Americans were elected to the Atlanta, TX independent school district (ISD) school board largely as a result of African American voters' giving all their votes to these candidates.
On May 15, 2004, the Amarillo Independent School District -- a jurisdiction with some 160,000 people -- elected its school board for the third time with cumulative voting. In each of these elections, at least one candidate of color has been elected. The current seven-member board has both African American and Latino representatives, after having had only white representatives for some two decades under the winner-take-all system.
Amarillo's adoption of
cumulative voting was the result of litigation brought by the
Mexican-American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF),
working with the local branches of the League of United Latin
American Citizens (LULAC)
and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored
The parties in the case agreed to settle the case with
the adoption of cumulative voting.