Saturday, February 24, 2024

Cumulative Voting System Could Be Used To Increase Minority Victories


 Last week, the voters of Port Chester, New York elected their first Hispanic elected official after a court-ordered revision of its voting system.

The small town previously elected its six trustees, two at a time every two years. The elections were at-large voting. Despite the fact that half of the town’s population is Hispanic, a Latino was never able to get elected under this system.

Following a lawsuit, the court ruled that the at-large system diluted the Hispanic vote. Locals rejected a proposal by the Department of Justice to draw up districts, presuming that a concentrated Latino population would be able to elect someone from their community. Instead they opted for a cumulative vote system – each voting getting six votes at once.

This resulted in Peruvian immigrant Luis Marino coming in fourth place and securing his place as the first elected Latino trustee of Port Chester.

“It helped me get elected,” said Marino, a Democrat who works in maintenance at the Scarsdale schools. “I will be representing all the people of Port Chester, but I am aware that I can help Hispanics bring their concerns to the board.”

In addition, voters elected the first black trustee, Joseph Kenner, who had previously served as a board appointee.

The cumulative voting system has been used in Alabama, Illinois, South Dakota and Texas to address problems with minority votes being diluted by an existing process. Randolph McLaughlin, a lawyer who has represented plaintiffs in several voters’ rights cases, including Port Chester’s, said “The way this election was implemented in Port Chester can be an example for other jurisdictions with similar problems.”

He added that the process alone was not enough, but that electing a Latino, “was the result of the work that went in before the election.”

A study of the exit polls conducted in Spanish and English will likely be studied by other officials and community groups who are looking for viable solutions to ensure Latino voters’ voices are heard.