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Understanding Cumulative Voting

In races for the Amarillo College Board of Regents and Amarillo ISD Board of Trustees, voters will be faced with selecting new members for both bodies. But, the ballot will look a little different for those races than for races like Mayor and City Council. Here’s what you need to know about cumulative voting.

How does it work?

In both the races for the AC Board of Regents and for the Amarillo ISD Board of Trustees, voters will have three votes to cast this year. In both jurisdictions, enough candidates filed to make the race competitive, meaning more than three filed with both entities (eight at AISD, five at AC). The cumulative voting system allows a voter to either maximize their vote for their favorite candidate, or to distribute their votes to several candidates who they support.

Cumulative 1.png

In this example, a voter has to vote in a school board election. The voter has three votes to distribute among four candidates. Because each candidate will have three boxes next to their name, the voter could choose to cast all three votes for their favorite candidate. In this case, Voter A prefers George Washington to the other three candidates, and can maximize his vote by voting three times for George Washington, as shown here.

But, what if a voter likes two of the four candidates, but has three votes to distribute? In that case, the voter could choose to cast two votes for one candidate, and one for another. Let’s say Voter B likes John Adams, but prefers George Washington the most. The voter has three votes to cast, and therefore, can vote twice for George Washington and once for John Adams, as shown here.

Meanwhile, Voter C likes George Washington and John Adams, but also prefers Thomas Jefferson. In this case, Voter C could cast one vote each to his three favorite candidates, Washington, Adams, and Jefferson. In this case, the voter distributes his votes to his favorite candidates, while leaving the candidate he found the least preferable, James Madison, without any votes. That example is shown here.

So, what would this all mean for the election results?

That is an excellent question. Following along with the tales of Voters A, B, and C above, only three voters cast ballots. However, in total, nine votes were cast, because each voter had three votes to distribute. In that model, George Washington would have received six votes, John Adams would receive two votes, Thomas Jefferson would receive one vote, and James Madison would receive no votes. Therefore, because three seats are up for grabs, Washington, Adams, and Jefferson would win spots, while Madison would be the odd man out.

Does a candidate have to win over 50 percent of the vote to be elected in a cumulative election?

Actually, no. This is one of the few elections in Texas where a candidate can be elected without winning 50 percent plus one of all votes cast in the election. In 2017, nine candidates ran for three spots on the Amarillo College Board of Regents, while five candidates ran for four spots on the Amarillo ISD Board of Trustees. In those elections, early returns had none of the winning candidates winning more than 35 percent of the vote.

Photo by MarketWatch

Photo by MarketWatch

May 4, 2019 Sample Ballot - Village of the Palisades

Profile: Amarillo College Bond Election, 2019