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Cumulative Voting Succeeds in Port Chester Election

This week, the Village of Port Chester, N.Y. held its second successful election using cumulative voting, which 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.

  • Keesha Gaskins
  • Archita Taylor
March 22, 2013

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.