Cumulative Voting Election a
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.
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.
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
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
May 7, 2002.
Election Results from
Amarillo Independent School Board (held using cumulative voting rules
for 3 seats)
Julie Attebury - 1,975 - loses
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
Sharon Oeschger - 2,090 - wins (white
Frank Nelson - 1,757 - wins (white challenger)
Tony Renteria - 1,099 -
loses (Latino challenger)