|Editorial: New voting system debuts›
Amarillo Globe News, May 9, 2000›
One election does not a perfect voting system make - but it definitely is a step in the right direction.
Amarillo Independent School District's cumulative-voting system, which debuted Saturday, might be just the remedy for the lack of minority participation.
James Allen, who was Amarillo's first black school board trustee, became the district's first African-American elected to office. He finished with the most votes of any of the seven candidates running for trustee. He received 7,619 votes, or 24 percent. Of the 22 voting precincts, Allen won 11 of them and was second in 10.
Rita Sandoval became the first Hispanic woman to win a seat on the school board. She was fourth in the voting with 4,382 votes, or 14 percent. She won two precincts and finished second in seven.
The top four vote-getters won school board seats.
The cumulative-voting system allowed voters to cast their four votes in any order. They could put all four votes on one candidate, one vote on four candidates or any combination not to exceed four votes.
The system was a compromise between the district and the League of United Latin American Citizens. LULAC and three Hispanic plaintiffs had filed suit against the AISD after the May 1998 school board election. The plaintiffs had hoped to change the district's at-large voting system to a single-member district system.
Saturday's results from two voting precincts are an indication that Allen and Sandoval benefitted from the new system.
At the North Heights Center, the polling place for three precincts, Allen dominated. Two of the precincts are predominantly black, and Allen won 81.4 percent of the votes cast in the three precincts. Of 321 ballots, he received 744 votes - meaning, on average, each voter cast more than two of their votes for Allen.
At the Bowie Middle School polling place, which encompasses a precinct where Hispanics make up 66 percent of the population, Sandoval finished first. She won 51.3 percent of the votes cast at the precinct. Of 125 ballots, she received 138 votes.
We were skeptical when the compromise to the lawsuit was reached and wondered how voters would react with the option of voting four times for one candidate. But we, as members of the minority community must also be, are pleased with Saturday's results. It is important that minorities, who had lamented their lack of a voice in local politics, have an impact on any election that affects their lives.