This week, the Village of Port Chester, N.Y. held its second successful election using cumulative voting. This system creates an alternative to traditional at-large districts if they are shown to discriminate against minority voters. And in Port Chester, it seems to be working.
In 2006, the Department of Justice filed a complaint alleging Port Chester’s at-large system of electing its board of trustees diluted the voting strength of its Hispanic citizens. In response, in 2009 the village adopted cumulative voting, which allows citizens to cast multiple ballots for a given candidate for a given seat.
A cumulative voting system is very rare and can be confusing for those unfamiliar. That’s why, in the run-up to the election, Port Chester had a number of public information meetings about the candidate qualifications and new cumulative voting process in both English and Spanish. The village hired 77 election inspectors and the Department of Justice sent observers to ensure the election ran smoothly. In using a cumulative voting system, Port Chester voters may award their six votes for the Board of Trustees as they see fit. In the past, voters cast as many votes as there were seats up for election, but voters could only give one vote to each candidate. With the cumulative voting system used on Tuesday, voters could cast their ballots exactly as they wished, including casting more than one vote for a candidate.
After two elections, this system has successfully enhanced the voting strength of the city’s large Hispanic population, which is almost 60 percent. In 2010, the village elected its first Hispanic member, Luis Marino, to its Board of Trustees, and he easily won re-election Tuesday.
Cumulative voting is an innovative way to ensure minority voters can have their say in our democracy. By committing to this system, and educating the public and voters about how it works, Port Chester has done a great service to its citizens.
Photo by e y e / s e e.