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rights of minorities, the United States is one of only a few modern democracies that have not adopted some general form of proportional representation. Americans are so fond of reciting the mantra, “the majority rules,” that we tend to ignore the drawbacks of a winner-take-all, majoritarian system. As civil rights attorney Edward Still of Birmingham, Alabama, puts it: “Surely any majoritarian system that can leave 49 percent of the people…with nothing to show for having gone to the polls except a patriotic feeling, is not the answer.” One solution to the difficult problem of providing minority representation while complying with recent Supreme Court mandates is modified at-large voting systems: limited voting \(in which voters have preference voting \(in which voters rank Texas the alternative most frequently employed is cumulative voting. Cumulative voting provides each voter as many votes as there are seats to be filled in a given election. In that way, it is the same as simple at-large systems. However, under cumulative voting, a voter may distribute votes among candidates in any combinationeven casting all the votes for one candidate. Although relatively rare, this system is not new to the American political scene. For more than a century after the Civil War, voters in Illinois used cumulative voting to elect members of their general assembly. Cumulative voting has also been used for decades to elect members of many corporate boards of directors Within this tradition, during the past decade some three dozen jurisdictions have adopted cumulative voting as a remedy for minority vote dilution. For blacks in Peoria, Illinois, Hispanics in Alamogordo, New Mexico, Native Americans in Sisseton, South Dakota, blacks in Chilton County, Centre, Guin and Myrtlewood, Alabama, and for Latinos in at least two dozen local jurisdictions in Texas, and for the African-American community in Atlanta, cumulative voting has become a means of obtaining at least some representation. Last year, for the first time, a federal judge actually ordered cumulative voting in a voting rights case in Worcester County, Maryland. CUMULATIVE VOTING IN TEXAS In Texas, except for the use of limited voting in the small town of Grapeland, cumulative voting is the only modified, semiproportional at-large system currently in use. In 1991, the Lockhart Independent School District settled a case of minority vote dilution by adopting four single-member districts and electing the remaining three board members by cumulative voting. In 1992, cumulative voting was adopted to settle suits against the city of Yorktown and the Yorktown ISD. Since then, at least 24 small cities and school districts in the Texas Panhandle and the Permian Basin have settled law suitsmost of them brought by San Antonio attorney Rolando Rios on behalf of the League of United adopting cumulative voting. In May, as part of the educational reform package passed this legislative session, a proportional voting provision drafted by Houston freshman Representative Garnett Coleman was approved. It will allow school districts to choose semi-proportional election schemesmore specifically, cumulative and limited votingand thus attempt to avoid expensive court challenges to their winner-take-all at-large elections. In Atlanta, an East Texas town of 6,000 near Texarkana, no black candidate ever won a school board electionuntil May. In election after election, whenever blacks ran for office, the number of votes they received approximated the number of black voters. And that was always fewer than was needed to win. Determined to address their lack of representation in school district matters, Atlanta’s black community leaders sought help from local attorney Clyde Lee and the national office of the NAACP. A suit was filed in March of 1992. In its initial response to the lawsuit, the school board offered five single-member districts, with one majority-black district and two at-large seats, but the plan did not pass muster with the Justice Department. The plaintiffs had submitted a seven-district plan that included two majority-black districts, but the school board promptly rejected it. No agreement was reached, and it looked as if the case would go to trial. But in mid-March, NAACP national legal director Dennis Hayes traveled to Atlanta, hoping to negotiate a settlement prior to the May 1 trial date. On March 23, six weeks before the next election, Federal District Judge John Hannah signed an agreement between the two parties for a cumulative voting system. Maxine Nanze And beyond the historic Atlanta election, May 6 provided a rare opportunity to measure the effectiveness of cumulative voting in Texas. On that day, 26 small cities and school districts in Texas used cumulative voting systems to elect public officialsall in response to some form of litigation, and most for the first time. Teams of bilingual pollsters from the University of Texas at San Antonio’s Hispanic Research Center focused on those 15 jurisdictions where Latinos filed for positions, querying 3,615 voters about how they cast their ballots and how well they understood and evaluated the new system of voting. In the Atlanta school board racethe only election in which a black candidate was running under cumulative votingAtlanta’s survey of 569 voters was a cooperative effort, organized by experts for the plaintiffs and defendants. \(The political science department at Texarkana Confirming that voters polarize along racial lines is crucial in these analyses, because where there is no polarization there can be no claim of minority vote dilution. In the Atlanta election, white and black voters could not have been much more polarized in their choice of candidates. The Atlanta survey showed that while no more than 3 percent of white voters cast even one of their four votes for Veloria Nanze, 94 percent of all votes cast by blacks went to Nanze. In elections where Latinos faced white candidates, the same general pattern of po Despite constitutional protections for the rights of minorities, the United States is one of only a few modern democracies that have not adopted some general form of proportional representation. THE TEXAS OBSERVER 7