Professor's analysis: Cumulative voting OK
Study shows voters understand process

By Jennifer Wilson
Published August 19th 2004 in Amarillo Globe News
Amarillo voters are getting the hang of cumulative voting, a West Texas A&M University professor's study shows.

The Amarillo Independent School District's May school board election marked the third time the district used the cumulative voting system, which lets each voter cast more than one vote. School officials were concerned that the public didn't fully understand how the system works.

But only 1.3 percent of ballots cast were "overvotes" - ballots that had to be thrown out because they had too many votes, said David Rausch, assistant professor of political science at WT. Only 1.2 percent voted fewer times than they should have.

Amarillo ISD officials say the numbers show residents have a good understanding of cumulative voting.

"I was very encouraged by his analysis," said Les Hoyt, assistant superintendent of administration.

"Clearly, based upon his analysis, they understand the system that much better."

Rausch recently finished analyzing the May 15 elections of the AISD board of trustees and the city of Canyon. He sifted through thousands of ballots by hand at the Randall County Courthouse, tallying results from nearly 5,000 voters.

"I think I was over there for three days," Rausch said.

Cumulative voting, used by AISD, gives each voter four votes - one for each seat open on the board. The system was put in place to give minority candidates a better chance to be elected.

Rausch also analyzed the city of Canyon election, which asked residents to vote on a mayor, two commissioners and two tax propositions.

Rausch found that three-fourths of voters either chose all incumbents or all newcomers for the commission seats.

"I saw definite evidence of ticket voting," he said.

Political yard signs sprouted up in threes - Lois Rice, Jed Welch and David Logan together or Kenneth Crossland, Gary Houlette and Joan Van Doren together, Rausch said.

Rice, Welch and Logan won.

Logan, a newcomer who agreed with the established commission's philosophy, said he wasn't surprised that residents chose sides.

"It was two general lines of thinking on the direction of the city," Logan said.

The incumbents thought that Canyon's current, steady growth rate is good, but the newcomers thought the city should be growing faster, Logan said.