Group advocates change in electing officials

By Martin G. Cortner
Published January 21st 2005 in Osceola News Gazette
Changing the way residents vote for county or city commissioners rather than going to single-member districts could be the key to getting a minority elected to office in Osceola County.

Dr. Terri Fine, associate professor of political science at the University of Central Florida, said cumulative voting¯ within an at-large system might be the key for minority groups to get their candidates elected in Osceola County because such a system would be less threatening to the established power base.¯ Currently, none of the governing boards for St. Cloud, Kissimmee, the school district or Osceola County have a minority member.

Fine spoke Thursday night in downtown Kissimmee at a lecture sponsored by Citizens For Florida, a grass-roots political organization that has the goal of promoting participation in the political process, especially by Hispanics and blacks.

Osceola County uses a modified at-large system where all voters get to vote for candidates from particular districts. The U.S. Senate, Fine said, is the best example of a pure at-large system where two senators serve an entire state.

St. Cloud, Kissimmee and the school district also use some form of the at-large system. The advantage of at-large voting, Fine added, is that elected officials must often compromise because they must do what is best for the whole political unit.

The U.S. House of Representatives, Fine explained, is an example of the single-member district system — where 435 representatives are elected