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Cumulative vote - again

Editorial // Published April 4, 2009 in www.amarillo.com

Amarillo voters get ready for another election with cumulative voting.

Amarillo's experiment with election reform will continue next month as voters select from a field of six candidates vying for four seats on the Amarillo Independent School District board of trustees.

It's worked well so far, and figures to do its job once again on May 9.

Amarillo ISD, faced with a lawsuit challenging its at-large system of electing trustees, came up with a cumulative voting plan that set aside the concerns of the plaintiffs who had sued the district. They had sought a single-member district plan, but settled on a hybrid process that has produced a high-quality field of candidates.

Cumulative voting allows residents to bunch up their votes for as many or as few candidates as they wish. This year, with four full-term seats being contested by six candidates, voters can cast all four votes for a single candidate; they can parcel their votes out evenly among all four; or they can combine their votes in any combination adding up to four.

A fifth contest, with incumbent Anette Carlisle running unopposed, will fill an unexpired AISD board term.

The motive for developing this plan was to generate more interest from candidates residing in all neighborhoods, representing a wide variety of demographic groups.

The public-opinion jury is still pondering whether the plan has worked precisely as its supporters envisioned.

But it's working well enough for the district to keep using it.

There will be some confusion among voters, to be sure. AISD needs to keep its phone lines open for the next five weeks to make sure it minimizes voter angst.