AISD election again eyes
cumulative voting outcome
By Beth Wilson
April 28, 2002
AISD switched to cumulative voting in 1999 and elected its first
black and Hispanic trustees in May 2000, the first election to use
the new process.
Cumulative voting is the compromise settled on in
1999 after the League of United Latin American Citizens, National
Association for the Advancement of Colored People and three
individuals filed a lawsuit against AISD after the May 1998 school
board elections. The group requested the district move from at-large
positions to single-member districts, claiming the procedure at that
time diluted the powers of minority voting.
At least eight minority
candidates had been unsuccessful in election to AISD board in the 12
years before 2000.
In cumulative voting, a voter has a number of
votes equal to the number of positions available. In Saturday's
election, three board positions are up for grabs, and each voter
will have three votes.
Five people are running for three board
positions: Incumbents Julie Attebury and Jack Thompson and newcomers
Janie Rivas, Jim Austin and LaRue M. Hite.
David Rausch, a
political science professor at West Texas A&M University,
studied the 2000 elections and will watch the second round of
cumulative voting for more research. The major benefit of cumulative
voting is voters can show strong support for one candidate, Rausch
"We're still at-large, but now we vote for our favorites, all
my votes to one person," Rausch said.
But in studying the results
of 2000, Rausch noted another factor in AISD board elections - a
group of business leaders called BIOS, Business in Our Schools.
BIOS has endorsed candidates since 1980 and never picked a loser,
said Don Curphey, one of its earliest members.
"I hope that's at
least in part because people have confidence in our recommendation,"
he said. "There's a pretty good likelihood that the people serving
now are doing so because they were endorsed by the BIOS and
encouraged to run by the BIOS."
The group's interest is in getting
qualified people on the board, Curphey said. The group provides
support, financial and otherwise, to people they think have a
quality the board needs. Membership in BIOS is ever-changing. BIOS
collects no dues, elects no officers and selects its choices for
candidates based on investigation, not necessarily individual
interviews, Curphey said.
The two candidates with BIOS backing in
this election are Attebury and Austin. Curphey said the group's
support of Attebury is a continuation of support given when she ran
in 1998. Austin has the fiscal knowledge needed to make up for Sam
Lovelady's departure, he said. Lovelady, an accountant, isn't
running for re-election.
"We're not against anybody," Curphey
said."We're just for people we've identified as having something
special to offer that relates to a special need."
BIOS seeks no
publicity for its endorsements. Curphey said group members receive
letters explaining reasons for their endorsements and requesting
But the influence spreads from there.
Allen, endorsed by BIOS in 2000 for the AISD board, said that
endorsement paired with his broad-based message helped him win.
"Any endorsement I received had an impact," Allen said. "Members of
the BIOS group, their co-workers, their circle of friends are
probably people that go out and vote. My appeal was broad-based, not
business against homemaker, not black or white, not northwest or
southwest Amarillo. I said if elected, I would represent all of
Amarillo's school district."
Rita Sandoval, also endorsed by BIOS
in 2000, said the influence of that endorsement might not have
spread past the business circle, but the larger community was ready
to put minorities on the board.
"People were looking at the
possibility that it was OK to have minority groups on the board and
that it was the right thing to do," she said.
president of the local NAACP branch, said the publicity from the
lawsuit brought the issue of minority representation to the
More people, including BIOS, were considering the
benefits of different cultural perspectives working together, he
"It (BIOS' endorsement of Sandoval and Allen) probably had
some effect because they too wanted to have more inclusion from all
areas of the city," Vaughn said. "It was a neat time, a very
reflective time, for them to look at all the candidates and see what
they can bring to the table."
David Almager, a local political
consultant who was involved in bringing cumulative voting to AISD,
said any endorsement helps a candidate, but people - minorities and
majorities - using more than one vote for minority candidates made a
difference in 2000.
Cumulative voting is still a new process for
Amarillo. Saturday's election are sure to bring more discussion
about the process, its intended outcome and its future.
feeling, what the community is feeling, is this is a good
opportunity to see if it can work," Almager said. "We'll see after
this election if this tool will be used to elect more minorities to