Cumulative vote set for 2nd act; Turnout is
key to making it work
April 7, 2002
So far, so good
on Amarillo's experiment with something called "cumulative voting."
The public school district's second chapter on the new voting plan
commences May 4 with the election of three Amarillo Independent
School District trustees.
The success of the voting plan likely
will rest in the voter turnout. Let us hope it grows - and keeps
AISD voters in 2000 elected the first Hispanic woman to
the board, Rita Sandoval, as well as the first African-American,
James Allen. Even better news was that these two candidates brought
significant qualifications to the campaign and have served the
district ably during the past two years.
Cumulative voting was the
result of a lawsuit brought against AISD by civil rights groups
contending that the district's former at-large election system
discriminated against minority candidates. School trustees approved
the cumulative voting plan as a way to end the lawsuit.
plan approved by the school board allows voters to cast more than
one vote for a candidate. The maximum number of votes a single
candidate can receive is equal to the number of seats being
contested in a given election. This year, with three seats being
decided, one candidate can receive as many as three votes.
of cumulative voting is to enfranchise voters who contended they
were disenfranchised by a system they perceived as being stacked
against them - and their political interests.
The old system worked
well for AISD. The new system can work just as well.
is the catch: For the cumulative voting system to work as its
proponents intend, minority voters have to turn out. The 2000
election brought mixed results in predominantly minority
neighborhoods. Indeed, Sandoval and Allen won their seats on the
strength of voter turnout in mostly Anglo precincts of southwest
Cumulative voting remains a work in progress. Board
members approved the settlement in 1999 with some trepidation,
fearing that it might prompt single-issue zealots to seek a place at
the seat of power. So far, that hasn't happened.
For this new
system to fulfill its promise, eligible voters need to register -
and then turn out to vote.
If they choose to forgo that fundamental
right of citizenship, they in effect relinquish any right to
Coverage in the Amarillo