Cumulative vote results
May 12, 2002
A voting system intended to help
minorities get elected primarily benefited an incumbent white man
and a Hispanic woman in the recent Amarillo Independent School
District board of trustees election.
Incumbent Jack Thompson and
newcomers Janie Rivas and Jim Austin were elected to the
seven-member board in the second election to use a cumulative voting
In the May 4 election, each voter had three votes to cast
in any combination.
Rivas, 46, a community volunteer, and Thompson,
69, received more votes than the number of ballots cast in several
precincts. This indicates voters used more than one of their three
votes for these candidates.
Thompson received 2,978 votes; Rivas
had 2,458 votes and Austin got 2,335. The other candidates were
incumbent Julie Attebury, with 1,975 votes, and LaRue Hite, with 659
AISD switched to cumulative voting in 1999, and voters
elected their 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 groups requested the
district move from at-large positions to single-member districts,
claiming the at-large method diluted the strength of minority
At least eight minority candidates had been unsuccessful in
AISD election attempts in the 12 years prior to 2000.
a political science professor at West Texas A&M University, said
Thompson, a community volunteer, won the election because of
"He got his three-vote message out," he said.
Several of Thompson's newspaper ads said, "He would appreciate 1, 2
or 3 of your votes." Rausch said this type of education on the
system clearly helped Thompson get a majority of votes.
voting is in use in about 35 municipalities in Texas, and it usually
helps put minorities on boards, Rausch said. The May 4 election had
low turnout, 3.6 percent of registered voters, and little
information spread about cumulative voting.
"In a low information
election, any information wins," Rausch said. "Thompson put his
information out there."
Another possibility, Rausch said, is
Thompson was seen as an underdog candidate because he wasn't
endorsed by the Globe-News or Business In Our Schools, a group of
businessmen who've endorsed candidates since the 1980s.
he'll review the ballots and study how votes were split and if those
voting for Rivas also voted for Antonio "Tony" Renteria for Amarillo
College's board of regents. He's planning an exit poll for the 2004
David Almager, a local political consultant who was
involved in bringing cumulative voting to AISD, said Rivas' election
to the board is a significant step in the cumulative voting process.
"It makes her the third minority elected to the board under the
cumulative voting system," he said. "Who would have thought four
years ago we would be electing a third minority to the board given
The test of cumulative voting will be future
elections, Almager said.
"The true test will be its ability for
minorities to consistently elect and re-elect minorities over a
longer period of time," he said. "Will voters continue to use this?
Will the community be comfortable with the system?"
study of AISD's 2000 election, he indicated endorsements by a group
of business leaders might have made more of an impact than
BIOS has endorsed candidates since 1980, and
never picked a loser until May 4, said Don Curphey, one of its
BIOS endorsed Attebury and Austin.
they took for granted the community's tendency to re-elect
incumbents and didn't do a good job communicating her contributions
to the board since 1998.
"The BIOS garnered the support it was
expecting for the people we identified as having a vested interest
in our schools, the business community," Curphey said. "They stood
up to the bar and made contributions, and we got a good man on the
board in Jim Austin. It was not a failure. The people who were
elected are good people. I'm disappointed about Julie but otherwise
pleased with the outcome."
Curphey said Rivas' determination and
intense campaigning was an important factor in the May 4 election.
Alphonso Vaughn, president of the local NAACP branch, said
Thompson's high numbers weren't surprising, because of his many
years of equal service to all schools.
Vaughn said he expects more
minorities to try for political office because the cumulative system
has leveled the field.
"It awakens individuals," he said. "Now we
have an opportunity to get our point across. We have now an
opportunity to seriously be looked at and be elected."
Effects of cumulative
Precincts with more
votes for a candidate than ballots cast:
School - Voters - Votes for
Rogers Elem. - 26 - 48 for Rivas
Bowie Middle - 59 -
131 for Rivas
Eastridge Elem. - 16 - 18 for Rivas
North Heights -
70 - 87 for Rivas
Whittier Elem. - 35 - 42 for Rivas
Elem. - 139 - 234 for Rivas
Lamar Elem. - 59 - 68 for Thompson
South Georgia Elem. - 109 - 135 for Thompson
Western Plateau Elem.
- 174 - 198 for Thompson
Puckett Elem. - 361 - 429 for Thompson
Windsor Elem. - 383 - 511 for Thompson
St. Laurence Cathedral - 25
- 29 for Rivas
Humphrey's Highland Elem. - 21 - 49 for Rivas