Voting a Boost for Minority Community
May 4th Election Declared Great
Success in Amarillo, Texas
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Joleen Garcia,
210-534-4935; or national office, 301-270-4616
On Saturday, May 4, 2002, cumulative voting was used
to elect three members to the school board in the Amarillo
Independent School District (ISD). The Amarillo ISD is the largest
American jurisdiction using cumulative voting, with more than
160,000 people. In the two elections since cumulative voting was
adopted to a settle a minority voting rights challenge in 1999, the
school board has gone from all-white to having four white
representatives, two Latino representatives and one black
"This was an important election. It was our second
attempt at getting another minority on the school board in
Amarillo," said Rita Sandoval, one of the two minorities elected to
the school board in 2000. Amarillo holds staggered elections where
approximately half the board is elected every two years.
For minorities seeking to elect someone from their
community to the board, cumulative voting certainly was a success.
Latina challenger Janie Rivas was successfully elected, gathering
the second highest vote total. The other two winners were a white
challenger and a white incumbent. A white incumbent was defeated.
"Initial results show that Janie Rivas benefited from cumulative
voting," reports Dr. David Rausch, assistant professor of Political
Science at West Texas A&M University.
Cumulative voting was enacted as a settlement to a
lawsuit brought by the League of United Latin American Citizens,
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and three
individuals against Amarillo ISD.
The groups were seeking a fairer election system under
the Voting Rights Act because the former at-large election system
diluted the Latino and African American vote. With cumulative
voting, the voter can distribute their votes more freely among the
candidates. The number of votes remains the same as the number of
positions elected, three votes in this year's election. However the
voter has more choice in distributing their votes, giving their
favorite candidates anywhere from one vote to all three. Many voters
in the Latino and black communities gave Rivas all three of their
"Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund is
very pleased that the positive results of our lawsuit have continued
through the second election cycle after the adoption of cumulative
voting," reports staff attorney Nina Perales who helped argue the
1998 lawsuit for the minority community.
Amarillo is among 57 jurisdictions in Texas that use
cumulative voting. In 1995, then-Governor George W. Bush signed
legislation to facilitate enactment of cumulative voting in school
"The eyes of the minority voting rights community were
focused on Amarillo. This election was seen by many as a test of the
ability of cumulative voting to work for the minority community,"
said Joleen Garcia, of the Center for Voting and Democracy, a
national organization that promotes fair election systems. "For
those who work for better election systems and fair representation,
this was an important victory."
For more information on cumulative voting and
electoral reform in the United States, see www.fairvote.org.