vote 3 times, legally
April 12, 2002
The last time he was up for
re-election, school board President Roger Bading voted for himself.
Twice. Fellow school board member Gail Randle cast two votes for
Some of the board members voted for themselves three
But that's no problem in the Navarro School District, which
has an unusual "cumulative voting" system of electing school board
"When it was first thrown out as an option, we had never
heard of it," Bading said. "My first reaction was 'That's not how
you vote. It's supposed to be one person, one vote.'"
But in the
Navarro district, each voter gets to cast as many votes as there are
open positions on the school board.
If three of the at-large seats
are up for election, each voter casts three votes, and can cast all
three for a single candidate, or two for one candidate and one for
another, or cast one vote each for three candidates.
So during the
campaign for the May 4 school board election to fill two vacant
seats in the small school district north of Seguin, the five
candidates are not asking residents for a vote, but for two votes.
"Cumulative voting allows minority groups to elect their preferred
candidate in an at-large election system," said Nina Perales, staff
attorney for the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Educational
Fund. "It does work. If voters understand the system, it works very
About 40 of the more than 2,000 school districts and cities
in Texas have cumulative voting systems, including the cities of
Boerne and Poth.
Most went to the system as a result of court
rulings in Voting Rights Act challenges to at-large election
systems, which can dilute minority voting strength and make it
difficult to elect minority candidates.
"The more common solution
is to go to single-member districts," said Ann McGeehan, director of
elections at the Texas secretary of state's office. "But in those
areas where minority populations are spread out, single member
districts would not really help get a minority elected."
of United Latin American Citizens sued the Navarro School District
in 1997, alleging the at-large voting system discriminated against
The district is about 40 percent Hispanic, but had not
elected a Hispanic school board member in recent memory.
to this system in a court settlement," Bading said. "We did not want
to go to single-member districts."
Randle said she prefers the
cumulative voting system to single-member districts because Navarro
often has very low voter turnout in school elections, and, with
single-member districts, it would be possible at times to get
elected with as few as 10 votes.
"I also see school districts
around us suffer from single-member districts," she said. "When you
are elected by a district, you are only concerned about your own
district, and the board is divided at the outset of any issue.
Everybody on the board needs to represent everyone in the
One Hispanic, Dennis Rincon, was elected since Navarro
adopted cumulative voting in 1997, but he resigned from the board
before completing his first term.
The system was more successful in
the Amarillo School District, the largest entity in the United
States with a cumulative voting system, Perales said.
"As a result,
the school board now has one Latina and one African American, and
they were able to stay with an at-large system," she said.
cumulative voting has not led to a surge in minority candidates
running for office or getting elected in the Navarro district,
school officials still consider it as a success.
"I think it has
been a tremendous compromise," Randle said.
Bading said "It works
well, but I'm sure there are still some voters out there that don't