What is Cumulative Voting?
Cumulative voting is an alternative to the standard ballot. This voting method can be used when there are multiple seats open in an election. In cumulative voting, voters are given as many votes as there are seats open and the freedom to use their votes however they like.
This method allows voters the freedom to cast multiple votes on a single candidate, as opposed to more frequent methods that limit voters to using only one of their votes per candidate.
For example: if there are two seats open, a voter is given two votes and has the option to use them both on their preferred candidate or split them between two separate candidates.
Why is Cumulative Voting “Fair?"
Unlike winner-take-all systems, voters are not limited to using only one vote per candidate. Instead, they can put multiple votes on one or more candidates. This increases the opportunity for minority groups to gain representation in an election.
When standard ballots are used the majority’s votes typically elect their desired candidates and block the minority voice from being represented in the elected body. The majority should not be able to control the entire district.
Allowing a voter to place multiple votes on one candidate increases that candidate’s chances of being elected.
If members of a minority group work together to support a single candidate, “plumping” all of their votes on them, they can hope to see their candidate of choice elected, even though they are in the minority. This allows minorities to be represented in an elected body.
In Port Chester, New York a federal judge found that the at-large voting system was in violation of the federal Voting Rights Act. Hispanics weren’t getting a fair chance to elect representatives of their choice. As a result, the Hispanic population was not seeing themselves represented at all in the elected body.
Port Chester became the first municipality in New York state history to use cumulative voting as a temporary solution. After two elections, this system successfully enhanced the voting strengths of the city’s Hispanic population.
Minorities have meaningful opportunities to elect candidates of their choice under a cumulative voting system. We hope that cumulative voting will have a similar effect in the upcoming Ferguson-Florissant School District school board elections.