Fair Representation Around the US

Click on a topic to begin.

Maine

From Fairvote

 

November 8, 2016, Maine became the first state to adopt ranked choice voting for the election of its governor, members of Congress, and state legislature. Ranked choice voting has been used to elect the mayor of its largest city, Portland, since 2011.

Maine has a long history of independent thinkers in local, state, and national offices. The state also has a large number of independent voters that have elected governors, U.S. senators, and state legislatures from a variety of parties. Maine has consistently had multi-candidate races for governor.

Maine Ballot Initiative

Maine electoral reformers delivered over 70,000 signatures, mostly gathered by volunteers, to the Maine Secretary of State in Augusta. The Committee for Ranked Choice Voting, a grassroots group of Maine citizens, garnered broad support from across the political spectrum, all with a singular focus: uphold majority rule and give voters a stronger voice in elections.

The signatures put the citizens initiative for ranked choice voting (RCV, also called instant runoff voting) on the ballot for the November 2016 general election. Maine voted in favor of "Question 5" for ranked choice voting by a 52% majority. The first use of RCV for all state and congressional primary and general elections will happen in 2018.

Use in Portland, Maine

Ranked choice voting was used for the first time in Portland, Maine to elect the mayor in November 2011. The city voted to use ranked choice voting in November 2010 at the same time they decided to have an elected rather than an appointed mayor position. The position of Mayor in Portland had not been elected for 88 years.

The high interest in the election made it very competitive, with 15 candidates running and voter turnout about 50% higher than election officials predicted. All evidence suggests voters adjusted well to the new ballot, and reactions to the use of RCV were overwhelmingly positive.

FairVote staff members Drew Spencer Penrose and Elizabeth Hudler spoke with Mayor Mike Brennan in the summer of 2013. He described how the use of ranked choice voting made his and the other candidates' campaigns more positive and inclusive, while giving every voter a stake in the outcome.

Cambridge, Massachusetts

From FairVote

 

Ranked choice voting (RCV) is used to conduct municipal elections in Cambridge, Massachusetts with a notable impact on politics and elections. Cambridge uses no wards or districts, and it is spared the expense of administering primary or runoff elections, as the entire election happens on a single ballot.

Cambridge regularly elects historically underrepresented candidates to positions on its city council, with more African Americans, women, and other underrepresented groups having the power to elect candidates of choice. In fact, analysis of ballot image data shows that over 99% of voters saw their first, second, or third choice elected to office.

Cambridge, Massachusetts has used the at-large form of ranked choice voting, an American form of proportional representation, to elect its City Council and School Committee since 1941. Cambridge adopted ranked choice voting at a time when more than two-dozen cities across the United States, including New York, Cincinnati, and Cleveland, used RCV to elect city councils and other positions in local government.

Many of the cities that adopted RCV in that era did away with it due to changes in voting technology and the increased ability of racial minorities to get elected under RCV, but the system remains in Cambridge. 

Ranked choice voting allows groups of like-minded voters to elect representatives in proportion to their share of the population, and has ensured fair representation of the city's political and ethnic minority groups for over 70 years. In February 2014, FairVote published a report on the effects this system had on the city's elections in 2013, and an op-ed in the Cambridge Chronicle discussing the use of this form of fair representation voting in the city. 

Women's Representation

The implementation of ranked choice voting has allowed women to achieve much greater representation in Cambridge than in other methods of election. Between 1997 and 2001, the City Council and School Committee had female representation between 1/3 and 2/3 of each body.

Representation of women in 4 Massachusetts City Councils in 2008
% women in City Council

Cambridge 33% 
Somerville 18%
Medford 29%
Worcester 27%

Representation of People of Color

The use of choice voting in Cambridge, MA has enabled racial minorities to better succeed in local elections by lowering the threshold for election. Since 1980, when the African-American population crossed 10% of the town's total population, members of the African-American community have been consistently elected to the city council and school committee. Also as a result of ranked choice voting and its promotion of coalition-building, although only 10% of the population, in recent years African-Americans have been able to hold more than one seat on each board at time.

Voter Satisfaction

Research has shown that ranked choice voting promotes voter satisfaction. Data from Cambridge elections between 1991 and 2009, shows that on over 90% of Cambridge voters elected their 1st or 2nd choice candidates.

Voter Turnout

In national elections, countries employing proportional voting methods have significantly higher voter turnout than countries with winner-take-all election systems. This has led political scientists like Seymour Martin Lipset and Walter Dean Burnham to the conclusion that proportional voting systems encourage greater voter participation. In this blog, George Pillsbury argues that turnout is higher in Cambridge because of voters' increased degree of choice and improved ability to elect candidates of choice.

Minneapolis, Minnesota

From vote.minneapolismn.gov

 

In 2006, the voters of Minneapolis approved a change from traditional balloting to Ranked Choice Voting for municipal elections. See how Ranked Choice Voting was approved.

Minnesota Election law requires both federal and state certification of all electronic voting systems. Since there was not any certified equipment that could conduct a Ranked Choice Voting election, the City of Minneapolis elections staff had to hand-count the 2009 election.

Research and planning

As part of the 2006 Minneapolis Instant Runoff Voting Task Force, elections staff completed research and reports that would guide the planning for implementing Ranked Choice Voting in Minneapolis.

In December 2006, Minneapolis elections staff met with then Secretary of State-elect Mark Ritchie to seek support for the creation of the Minnesota Ranked Choice Voting Issues Task Force. This task force had an open membership and included two sub-committees: Technical Advisory and Legislative/Rules Committees.

Preparing for implementation

Election planning for the 2009 municipal election included a dual-track schedule, as it was possible that the City Council could postpone implementation of Ranked Choice Voting until a future year.

The 2009 municipal election would have 22 offices on the ballots. In each precinct, there would be five different offices on the ballot.

During the planning process that year, elections staff completed these tasks:

  • Officially adopted Ranked Choice Voting as the name of the voting method to more accurately reflect the process voters use to rank candidates in single and multi-seat offices. In addition, "Ranked Choice" did not imply "instant" results from the process.
  • Reviewed the newly-created Ranked Choice Voting city ordinance for housekeeping changes needed.
  • Determined the best method to count the multiple seat offices that would comply with Minnesota law was the Weighted Inclusive Gregory Method (WIGM), which could produce the same election results in a recount.
  • In May 2009, a "test election" was conducted for several purposes: 
    • Develop the first-draft ballot design.
    • Work with different draft versions of materials to be used by election judges in the polling place to help voters.
    • Kick-off voter outreach efforts by inviting various groups to experience Ranked Choice Voting & share their feedback on that experience and the ballot itself.
    • Develop the method for hand-counting the single seat and multiple seat offices to determine the winner(s). Ballots were counted by combining all of the ballots for an office. For a turnout of 70,000, it was estimated that the hand-count for the 22 offices could take between 24 and 129 8-hour shifts of 39 counters.
  • In June 2009, the council confirmed the Ranked Choice Voting election schedule.
  • The ballot design was improved based on the feedback from the Test Election and other community feedback.
  • In August 2009, the hand-count process was redesigned. A one-week "work-out" session developed the Minneapolis Method of hand-counting the ballots at the precinct level to use the precinct level data for analysis by office. Based on the Minneapolis Method, with a 70,000 voter turnout, it was estimated hand-counting the 22 offices would take 37 8-hour shifts with 102 election judges serving as counters and data entry staff. This new method would assure seating elected candidates on time.
  • The training plan for election judges was designed to use at least one-half of the class time to explain Ranked Choice Voting to the judges.
  • Hired an organization to conduct a impartial survey of voters, candidates and election judges concerning implementation.
  • Recruited a Historian to document the implementation.
  • In addition to traditional precinct staffing, election judges were recruited and scheduled to do counting and data entry.

The Minneapolis Method

The Minneapolis Method combines a hand-count with data analysis that avoids using an uncertified ballot counting program.

With the planned implementation in 2013 of certified equipment for use in the initial tabulation of ballots up to the point of data analysis, the hand-count portion of the Minneapolis Method remains as an efficient method for conducting a recount. In Minnesota, a recount must be conducted by hand. In 2013, data analysis will still be completed under similar procedures to those followed in 2009.

The full process involved in implementing the Minneapolis Method is documented here. Overall, determining winners based on the ballot data rather than sorting and re-sorting the actual ballots was easier and saved time.

 

The 2017 Minneapolis municipal election will use ranked-choice voting

Ranked-choice voting is a way of voting that eliminates the need for separate primary elections. When you vote in an election using ranked-choice voting, you can rank up to three candidates for each office.

Ranked-choice voting is used for all Minneapolis city offices: Mayor, City Council, Board of Estimate and Taxation, and Park and Recreation Board (both at-large and by district.)

While it will be used for all regularly scheduled elections in 2017, ranked-choice voting is NOT used for elections for the Minneapolis School Board, or county, state or federal offices.

Vote for your top three candidates

You can choose to rank up to three candidates for all offices on the ballot in the November General Election. Your ballot will have three columns. In each office,you complete the ballot from left to right, indicating your first choice for each race in the first column. You then have the option to rank second and third choices in each office. Your second choice would only be counted if your first choice did not receive enough votes to continue on to the next round of counting, so ranking a second or third choice does not hurt your first choice candidate. Your ballot will be counted whether you choose to rank one, two, or three candidates in any offices.

Educational fliers prepared for the 2013 Election on how to vote using ranked-choice voting (will be updated for 2017)

Ranked-Choice Voting - One page flier - English (pdf)
Ranked-Choice Voting - One page flier - Español / Spanish (pdf)
Ranked-Choice Voting - One page flier - Hmoob / Hmong (pdf)
Ranked-Choice Voting - One page flier - Soomaaliga / Somali (pdf)
Ranked-Choice Voting - One page flier - Oromiffaa / Oromo (pdf)
Ranked-Choice Voting - One page flier - Tiêng Viêt / Vietnamese (pdf)
Ranked-Choice Voting - Two page flier - Lao (pdf)

Instructions provided to voters at the polling place
Polling Place Instructions for Completing a Ranked-Choice Voting Ballot - English (pdf)

How your ranked-choice ballot is counted

After the polls close, election officials count all of the first choice votes to see if any one candidate has more than the required threshold of votes to win. In single seat races, the threshold is 50% of the ballots cast plus 1, or more than half the votes cast. If a candidate gets more than half of the votes in a single seat race, that candidate is declared the winner.

If no candidate received more than the required threshold of first choice votes, the Ranked-Choice process kicks in. The candidate who received the lowest number of votes is eliminated, along with any candidates who have no mathematical possibility of winning. Their votes are reallocated based on the second-choice votes on those ballots. If that process leaves one candidate with more than the required threshold of votes, that candidate is declared the winner.

If there's still no candidate with more than the required threshold of votes, the candidate remaining with the lowest number of votes is eliminated, and his or her votes are reallocated based on the next remaining ranking on those ballots. If a voter's second choice candidate was already eliminated, their third choice gets the vote. This process continues until one candidate reaches the threshold of required votes, and that candidate is declared the winner.

For more information:
Counting a Ranked-Choice Voting Election - English two page flier (pdf)

 

Minneapolis mayor Betsy Hodges discusses how RCV changed the discussion with voters:

https://youtu.be/aB91G8h3ZH8

Bay Area, California

From FairVote

 

Ranked choice voting (RCV) is used to conduct municipal elections in several Bay Area cities with notable impacts on elections. Cities save the expense of administering primary or runoff elections. In San Francisco, as of 2015, over 20 elections went to multiple rounds of counting, allowing for strong winners out of competitive races without the need for a high-cost, low turnout runoff. In campaigns across the Bay Area we have seen candidates work to reach out directly to voters. In Oakland there has been a resurgence of grassroots campaigning with emphasis on direct voter outreach, increasing both public awareness of elections and elected official’s connection with their constituents.

Among winners of RCV elections the Bay Area has seen an increase in elected officials from communities that are historically under-represented in local government. With competitive races in all four Bay Area RCV cities, candidates and voters are able to come together and have an in-depth discussion about the future of their cities.

History

San Francisco was the first city to switch to RCV, adopting the system to elect all city officials by a charter amendment in 2002 and holding its first RCV elections in 2004. In 2006, Oaklandvoters passed a charter amendment to adopt RCV for city officials, with 69% of voters in favor of making the switch. In 2010, Berkeley and San Leandro adopted ranked choice voting and in November of 2010 Oakland, Berkeley, and San Leandro all held their first RCV elections, with Oakland’s highly competitive mayoral election receiving national media attention. In 2011, San Francisco had a series of extremely competitive races with RCV, including Mayor and several Districts on the Board of Supervisors. And in 2012 Oakland, Berkeley, and San Leandro used RCV for a second time, with competitive races for Berkeley’s mayor, and City Council positions in Oakland and San Leandro.

Jean Quan was elected in 2010 as Oakland’s first female Mayor and in San Francisco 16 of the city’s 18 offices elected by RCV are now held by people of color.

Chilton County, Alabama

Cumulative Voting in an Alabama County

Shaw v. Reno and New Election Systems        


Jason Kirksey, Richard Engstrom and Edward Still


"The time has come to contemplate more innovative means of ensuring minority representation in democratic institutions," observed the federal district court that invalidated Georgia's majority-black 11th Congressional District in August 1994. That decision followed in the wake of Shaw v. Reno, in which the U.S. Supreme Court held that majority minority districts that are "extremely irregular" in appearance will be strictly scrutinized to determine whether they are racial gerrymanders.

While the full impact of the courts' elevated concern for appearances is not yet known, the decisions highlight the need to look beyond geographically-based districts as the method by which to elect representatives. Single-member districts with winner-take-all plurality or majority rules are not the only democratic method by which representatives can be elected. Indeed, most of the world's democracies have eschewed that type of arrangement.

Other types of democratic electoral systems can provide comparable or even better electoral opportunities for minority groups, especially when a group's voters are somewhat dispersed residentially.

The dilution of the voting strength of a politically cohesive minority group should not be tolerated simply because the group's voters cannot form the majority in an election district that is nicely shaped. The dilution of such a group's vote is a choice, not an inevitability. A variety of democratic election systems that do not depend on residential patterns can provide cohesive groups with an opportunity to elect candidates of their choice.

These systems are not limited to the much maligned (at least in this country) party list proportional representation arrangements, nor are they systems that in any way guarantee particular election results. They are, to the contrary, election systems that provide nothing more than opportunities to elect candidates of choice, all within the fundamental "one person, one vote" rule of American democracy.

 

Cumulative Voting

One such election system is cumulative voting. A cumulative voting system can be employed with or without geographical districts. When used in conjunction with districts, however, the districts do not need to be majority minority in order to provide electoral opportunities to minority groups, even those whose voters may be dispersed. There is no need, therefore, to manipulate district lines for that purpose.

The critical feature of the districts in a cumulative voting system is that they be multi-member -- i.e., more than a single representative must be elected from them. Under the cumulative system, the larger the number of representatives to be elected in a district at any one time, the smaller the proportion of the district's voters the minority group can comprise and still have an opportunity to elect a candidate of its choice.

Cumulative voting allows voters in a multi-seat, multi-vote election to cast more than a single vote for any particular candidate of their choice. It offers voters with an intense preference for a particular candidate or candidates an opportunity to express that intensity through their ballot. They can, in short, distinguish their level of support among candidates through their votes.

In a three-seat, three-vote election, for example, a voter may cast one vote apiece for three different candidates, or cast two votes for one candidate and one vote for another, or if the outcome they most desire is that one particular candidate be elected, cast all three of their votes for that candidate.

By providing voters with the option to cumulate their votes, voters who prefer one candidate over all the others are no longer forced to either "single-shot" vote-i.e, cast one vote for that candidate and withhold all of their other votes-or cast their remaining votes for candidates competing with their preferred choice. Rather than partially disfranchise themselves, voters can "plump" all or some of their votes on their most preferred candidate under this system. Winning candidates are determined by a simple plurality rule; in the three-seat contest, for example, the top three candidates win.

In a multi-seat election, whether at-large or by district, the cumulative options provide a minority of voters an opportunity to concentrate their support for a candidate or candidates more effectively than they can under the more traditional voting rules used in this country. This makes it much less likely that their votes will be diluted by submerging them in those of the majority. In short, with cumulative voting, minority group voters do not have to be made into majorities of voters in order to elect a candidate or candidates of their choice. The need to manipulate district lines, therefore, is largely, if not completely, eliminated.

Agee was clearly the most preferred candidate among the African American voters, and the ability to express the intensity of their preference was critical to his electoral success.

 

The Chilton County Experience

Minority voters have elected candidates of choice using cumulative voting on a number of occasions. Further illustration is provided by the November 1992 election for the seven seats on the Chilton County Commission in Alabama.

Chilton County adopted cumulative voting in 1988 as part of the settlement of a vote dilution lawsuit brought against its previous election system. According to the 1990 Census, African Americans constitute only 9.9% of the county's voting age population. No African American had been elected to the county commission this century until the first cumulative voting election, held in 1988. That commissioner, Bobby Agee, was reelected the second cumulative voting election in 1992.

An exit poll taken during the November 1992 general election in Chilton County reveals that Agee's reelection was a function of African American voters taking advantage of their option to cumulate votes on his behalf. Given the small percentage of African Americans in the county, the exit poll deliberately over-sampled African American voters. A total of 702 voters, of whom 142 (20.3%) were African American, reported how they cast their votes in this commission election.

With the exception of Agee, the percentage of vote received by each of the candidates in the poll was within two percentage points of the percentage they received in the actual vote. Agee did better in the poll than in the actual count; whereas he finished second among the fourteen candidates in the actual vote, with 9.69% of the votes cast, he finished first in the exit poll with 15.73%. This no doubt reflects the over-sampling of African American voters. If the vote is adjusted to reflect the over-sampling, Agee's percentage drops to 10.47%, very close to his actual percentage.

Despite being one of the seven Democratic candidates in the general election, Agee received very little support from the county's non-African American voters. Among the non-African American voters in the exit poll (97.0% of whom identified themselves as white), Agee finished twelfth -- ahead of the only other African American candidate, also a Democratic nominee, and one white Republican candidate. Only 13.4% of these voters cast even a single vote for Agee.

Agee was by far the choice of the African American voters, however. He received a vote from 67.1% of the African Americans who reported their vote in the exit poll, and 85.4% of these voters said they cast all seven of their votes for him. On average Agee received 6.28 votes from each of his African American supporters. (The other African American candidate received at least one vote from 32.9% of the African American voters, and 78.7% of these voters cast all seven of their votes for the candidate.) Agee was clearly the most preferred candidate among the African American voters, and the ability to express the intensity of their preference was critical to his electoral success.

The Chilton County experience with cumulative voting is not unique. African American voters in other settings have also been able to elect candidates of their choice through this system, as have Hispanic and Native American voters. As these experiences demonstrate, the representation of politically cohesive minority groups do not have to be dependent on where the group's voters happen to live.

A new shape threshold for election districts, if that is what Shaw requires, should not be allowed to become a convenient excuse for systematically diluting the votes of minority voters. If majority minority districts that are sufficiently attractive to the courts cannot be created, then other types of democratic election systems that do not have dilutive consequences, like cumulative voting, should be adopted.

 

Jason F. Kirksey is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Political Science at the University of New Orleans, where voting rights expert Richard L. Engstrom is a research professor. Edward Still is a civil rights attorney in Birmingham, Alabama. This article first appeared in the Voting Rights Review of the Southern Regional Council, which can be contacted at: 134 Peachtree Street, Suite 1900, Atlanta, GA 30303.

Peoria, Illinois

From FairVote

 

In 1991, the city of Peoria settled a Voting Rights Act suit filed in 1987 by adopting cumulative voting for the five at-large seats on its city council. That means Peoria voters may select up to five candidates when voting at-large and have their five votes distributed equally among those candidates. If a voter only selects one candidate, their other four votes are not wasted, because all five votes will count for that candidate. If a voter selects two candidates, both will receive 2.5 votes, and so on.

Peoria has regularly elected women, racial minorities, and political newcomers to its City Council under this system. The last at large election held in Peoria maintained the diversity of the Council, with two women and one African American man elected to office. In 2011 Peoria elected its youngest council member ever, Ryan Spain, using cumulative voting. Spain won re-election in 2015.

In 2011, the City Council rejected an attempt to replace Peoria's cumulative voting system with single-member districts, finding that cumulative voting provided the best opportunity for minority candidates. Cumulative voting has been and continues to be a success in Peoria, demonstrating the success and feasibility of proportional representation voting in the United States. 

Amarillo, Texas

From FairVote Archives

The History of Cumulative Voting in Amarillo

In response to problems of under-representation facing communities of color in Texas, more than 57 jurisdictions within the state switched to cumulative voting between 1991 and 2000, primarily to remedy Voting Rights Act suits.

In 1995, then-governor George W. Bush recognized the support for proportional voting in the state, and signed enabling legislation to allow school districts to adopt cumulative and limited voting election methods. Cumulative voting allows a political minority to gain representation by focusing its voting strength on one candidate. Specifically, it grants voters in multi-seat races as many votes as there are seats, but voters may distribute these votes freely (ie: give all votes to one candidate, or give half to one candidate and half to another, etc).

Amarillo, TX is the largest jurisdiction in the country to use cumulative voting, after having adopted the system for school board races in 2000. The Amarillo school board has seven members, and elections are staggered so that four are elected one year and three the next. Under the cumulative voting system, voters have as many votes as there are positions to be filled, and can apportion them however they wish. So, for instance, in a year where four seats were being elected, a voter could give one vote each to four candidates, two votes to two candidates, or all four votes to a single candidate. A brief account of the system's adoption, as well as its subsequent successes is outlined below.

Minority representation under winner-take-all (pre-cumulative voting)

Amarillo is approximately 16% Latino and 6% black, but prior to 1999 had virtually no history of ethnic or racial minority representation on the school board, due to an at-large winner-take-all mode of elections, which allowed the white majority to control all of the seats. No black candidate was elected to the AISD Board of Trustees and no black was appointed to the board before 1999. James Allen was appointed in June 1999 to complete the term of a trustee who had resigned. Only one Hispanic was elected to the board. Jose Rael was elected in 1972 and reelected in 1978. David Contreras, a member of the Hispanic community, was appointed to complete an unexpired term. An Anglo candidate defeated Contreras in a 1990 attempt to retain his seat.

Blacks or Hispanics were candidates at least 10 times from 1980 through 1996; all were defeated by Anglo candidates. In 1980, a black candidate was unsuccessful in a runoff election. The same candidate ran against two Anglo candidates in 1988 and was defeated. In 1990, an Anglo candidate defeated a black candidate and a Hispanic was unsuccessful in a bid to retain his seat. The Hispanic candidate was able to force a runoff, but an Anglo candidate in the two-person contest defeated him. A black candidate ran unsuccessfully against four Anglo opponents in 1996. An Anglo candidate defeated a Hispanic candidate in 1996. In 1998, their Anglo opponents defeated three Hispanic candidates, running in separate numbered places.

The fight for fair representation in Amarillo

Shortly after the May 1998 school board elections, two Hispanic residents, one black resident, and the League of United Latin American Citizens, Council #4427 (LULAC), brought a suit against the Amarillo Independent School District under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The lawsuit claimed that “the present at-large, numbered place method of electing members of the board of trustees of the AISD results in a denial or abridgement of the right to vote of Hispanics and blacks on account of their race, color, or ethnicity, by having the effect of canceling out or minimizing their individual voting strength.”

After trying to work with the school board, the Amarillo Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (Amarillo NAACP) joined the suit in November 1998. The plaintiffs originally sought a court order directing the AISD to create seven single-member districts. One of the districts would be a “majority-minority” district including a 30% Hispanic and 27% black population. However, because of concern that it wouldn't be possible to draw a compact district, both sides agreed to a cumulative voting system patterned after the system used in Alamogordo, New Mexico, and a growing number of other localities.

The two parties were able to choose a cumulative voting system because of the 1995 Texas statute permitting school districts to use alternative voting systems to elect board members.

The 2000 elections

Cumulative voting was used to elect Amarillo's school board for the first time on May 6, 2000. Four seats were elected by cumulative voting, and for the first time ever, a black candidate (James Allen) won and for the first time since the 1970s, a Latino candidate (Rita Sandoval) won both with strong support in their communities.

At the same time, voter turnout more than tripled from the last election (in part due to a ballot measure), and all sides in the voting rights case that led to the adoption of cumulative voting last year expressed satisfaction with how the system worked. The 2002 elections On May 4, 2002, cumulative voting was used for the second time to elect the school board. 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-population 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.

The 2004 elections

In 2004, cumulative voting was again hailed as a success. Professor David Rausch of West Texas A&M University conducted a study indicating that voters understood the system well, when measuring voter error rates. Racial minority representation has continued since the system's implementation, and now policymakers and advocacy groups are pushing for use of cumulative voting in additional elections in Amarillo. Professor David Rausch's analysis of Amarillo's 2004 election results (.pdf 74 KB) Amarillo Globe News coverage of the 2004 Amarillo cumulative voting elections [HERE]

Port Chester, New York

From the New York Times By Kirk Semple On June 16, 2010

 

PORT CHESTER, N.Y. — This village in Westchester County has elected a Hispanic member to its board of trustees for the first time, capping a bitter legal battle over giving its large Latino population a stronger voice in local government.

That member, Luis Marino, a Peruvian immigrant who ran as a Democrat, was among the victors Tuesday in the first local election since a federal judge ordered Port Chester to adopt a new voting system to give Latinos a better shot at electing one of their own to the six-member board.

The electoral system itself made news, letting voters use six votes however they chose, including casting all six for one candidate. One Republican who won, Joseph D. Kenner, was the first black candidate elected to the board.

“I think the results are clear — that the new system worked,” Mayor Dennis G. Pilla, a Democrat, said on Wednesday.

According to the most recent census data, from 2006 to 2008, Latinos make up 49 percent of the village’s roughly 28,000 people, though many are not citizens; about 39 percent are non-Hispanic whites and 7 percent are black. Still, in past elections, the preferred candidates for the village board among Latino voters were usually defeated.

A federal lawsuit, filed in 2006 by the Justice Department, charged that the village’s method of electing its trustees diluted the voting strength of Latino citizens. A federal court judge agreed, and in 2009 ordered the imposition of a rarely used process known as cumulative voting. Port Chester’s election began with early voting last week and culminated on Tuesday, with the vote count extending into early Wednesday.

It is the first in which cumulative voting has been used in New York State since at least the beginning of the 20th century, according to FairVote, a voting rights advocacy group based in Takoma Park, Md., that was hired to supervise voter education for the new electoral system.

The election of Mr. Marino, one of two Latino candidates on the ballot, could lead to the wider use of cumulative voting as a remedy in voting rights lawsuits, said FairVote’s executive director, Rob Richie.

“In the next round of redistricting, I think you’ll see a lot more places where some remedy may be needed and challenges brought, and communities say, ‘If I have to change, I’d like this,’ ” said Mr. Richie, who was here this week for the election.

But some residents questioned the efficacy of more than $300,000 that the municipality budgeted to carry out a court-ordered voter education program. According to preliminary estimates, the mayor said, voter turnout may not have topped 3,000, or about a quarter of registered voters — similar to the participation rate in other recent local elections.

Mr. Marino, 43, will be joined by another Democrat, two Republicans, a Conservative and an independent. All represent the community at large.

According to preliminary results provided by the mayor’s office, Mr. Marino, a volunteer firefighter who works in the maintenance department of the Scarsdale school system, received 1,962 votes, which put him in fourth place among 13 candidates on the ballot. The top vote-getter was Bart Didden, an independent, who had 2,576 votes.

Mr. Didden attained some notoriety during the federal lawsuit by circulating a flier in the 2007 mayoral election that the federal judge called “a racial appeal.” The flier, an appeal to voters to oppose Mayor Pilla’s candidacy, criticized the mayor for his “apparent support” of Latino causes and included attacks on two Latino leaders in the community, according to the judge’s decision.

Mr. Marino said on Wednesday that he believed he had benefited from cumulative voting, especially since his strongest supporters were able to cast most of their votes for him. “I am very excited, very happy,” he said. “I just have to see what’s in front of us, and I’m ready to do the work.”

Two other Latino candidates — Fabiola Montoya, a Colombian-American who ran on the Republican slate, and John Palma, an Ecuadorean-American who ran as a write-in independent candidate — came in 10th and 13th, respectively.

Join us in turning public passion for gender parity into action and results