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Amarillo's Second
Cumulative Voting Election a Success

May 4, 2002

On May 4, 2002, cumulative voting was used for the second time to elect the school board in the Amarillo Independent School District, the largest jurisdiction in the nation to use cumulative voting with a total population of 160,995. Five candidates sought three seats, with two white incumbents, one particularly strong white challenger and one Latina candidate. The winners were one of the white incumbents, one white challenger and Latina candidate Janie Rivas. The school board now has four white representatives, two Latino representatives and one black representative--all elected either in the first cumulative voting election for four seats in May 2000 or the second cumulative voting election for three seats in May 2002. Under the old winner-take-all, at-large electoral rules, no non-white candidate had been elected for nearly two decades even though more than 40% of the student-age population and more than 20% of the voting age-popuation in Amarillo is non-white.

The 2000 elections had been marked by a surge in voter turnout and the first-election of a black candidate and a Latina candidate. Both of those minority candidates had won the endorsement of an influential business group named BIOS. Given that no candidate endorsed by BIOS had lost in years, some voting rights advocates were interested to see if a candidate with strong minority support could win under cumulative voting without having the endorsement of BIOS.

Although winning the endorsement of the Amarillo Globe-News, the Latina canidate Rivas did not have the endorsement of BIOS and, to win, had to defeat at least one white incumbent or one white challenger endorsed by BIOS. Yet Rivas finished second, far ahead of one of the white incumbents endorsed by BIOS.  Early indications are that Rivas' supporters made effective use of cumulative voting. The Center's Texas community educator Joleen Garcia was a resource to those seeking to use cumulative voting in Amarillo.

Providing a good contrast, the college board at the same time had a traditional winner-take-all, at-large election for three seats with three white candidates and one Latino male. Some Latino leaders organized a "bullet vote" campaign, in which Latino voters were urged to only cast one vote for the Latino candidate instead of casting their additional two votes for white candidates. Nevertheless, the Latino candidate finished a poor fourth.

For more information:

- See election results for the school board election and college board election. 

- See the Press Release from CVD on the election

- See pre-election and post-election coverage in the Amarillo Globe-News.

- See the most recent Amarillo Globe News article, "District is in vanguard of reform."

- See CVD's page on the Amarillo elections in 2000 and other items on its voting rights page.

- Download a .pdf file of a paper by Todd Donovan, Shaun Bowler and David Brockington on "Election Systems and Voter Turnout: Experiments in the United States" which found that voter turnout on average increased by 5% (meaning from 15% to 20% in a given community) in communities converting to cumulative voting or limited voting.

- Contact professor David Rausch, a West Texas A&M professor, wrote who wrote "Cumulative Voting Comes to Amarillo Independent School District" for Politics and Policy (December 2001, Volume 29, Number 4).

- Read John Nichols' article in The Nation, "A Voting Reform That Works Is Transforming Texas," May 7, 2002.

Election Results from Amarillo Independent School Board (held using cumulative voting rules for 3 seats)

Julie Attebury - 1,975 - loses (white incumbent)
Jack Thompson - 2,978 - wins (white incumbent)
Janie Rivas - 2,458 - wins (Latina challenger)
Jim Austin - 2,335 - wins (white challenger)
LaRue M. Hite - 659 - loses (white challenger)

Election Results from Election to Amarillo College Board (held using winner-take-all, at large rules for 3 seats)

Louise Daniel - 2,216 - wins (white incumbent)
Sharon Oeschger - 2,090 - wins (white incumbent)
Frank Nelson - 1,757 - wins (white challenger)
Tony Renteria - 1,099 - loses (Latino challenger)


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