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Boerne, Texas Considers Abandoning Cumulative Voting

Published on November 30, 2009, by in General.

Boerne, Texas, has been using Cumulative Voting for its city council elections since 1997. The city began using Cumulative Voting in response to a lawsuit that had been filed by the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC). Cumulative Voting is a system in which each voters gets, for example, three votes. That voter is free to give all three votes to one particular candidate, or spread the votes around to several candidates. The goal was to make it possible for Hispanics to win at least one seat. However, even with Cumulative Voting, no Hispanic has been on the Council since 2003.

LULAC says it would support going to single-member districts if a majority-Hispanic district could be drawn. See this story. Boerne is in central Texas and is 20% Hispanic.

10 Responses

  1. Aaron Hamlin

    This seems kind of ridiculous. First, where is the evidence that this method is confusing? Is there no example on the ballot to alleviate this? If they wanted a simple method that gives semi-proportional representation that gives the same threshold, there’s limited voting with one vote.

    Second, there are five seats on this council. That gives a threshold of 16.7% (100/6; same for limited with one vote and STV) of the vote needed to get someone elected. If the goal is to get a Hispanic on the board (assuming all Hispanics somehow vote the same) the vote turnout among Hispanics would have to be roughly proportional to other groups coming out to vote (assuming those groups don’t vote for Hispanics).

    If they really want to make sure that they get a Hispanic on the board, they should add another seat. This would lower the threshold to 14.2% (100/7) and make it easier for this minority group to get elected. Of course a switch to single transferable vote would remove the problem of undervotes and overvotes, though City Attorney Mick McKamie and Mayor Dan Heckler might think this ranking of candidates as too “confusing” for voters.

    The solution of plurality voting will only add to wasted votes, vote splitting, and never ending incumbency seats. While gerrymandering districts for a minority majority may accomplish the goal of getting a Hispanic elcted, it seems to come at an unnecessary cost when there are alternatives.

  2. Demo Rep

    Total Votes / Total Seats = EQUAL votes for each seat winner.

    Both majority rule and minority representation.

    Much too difficult for the armies of math morons (especially lawyers and judges) in the U.S.A.

  3. Aaron Hamlin

    “Total Votes / Total Seats = EQUAL votes for each seat winner.”

    This is party list (open or closed list) proportional representation. This isn’t bad, but typically it’s more suitable for larger legislatures rather than city council. Also, I think it has some hangups for independents since it treats them like a party when you vote. I can see party list proportional being a good option with one of two chambers in a legislature, but not as suitable for city council. Especially with a legislature so small, with other voting systems you get more personal identity with your representative.

    (I’m also in law school to be one of those moronic lawyers. It’s okay though. I minored in math during undergrad.)

  4. Jim Riley

    The current Texas Secretary of State is from Boerne.

  5. Demo Rep

    #3 Try to avoid all of the MORON law school profs who are brain dead about gerrymander math –

    half the votes in half the gerrymander districts = about 25 percent minority rule.

    A *DEMOCRATIC* legislative body exists ONLY because ALL of the Electors-Voters can NOT generally appear in person and vote on legislation — thus AGENT- REPRESENTATIVES (aka legislators) are needed.

    Such principle is much too difficult for the armies of MORON lawyers and judges to understand — especially the SCOTUS super-MORONS in their various gerrymander cases since 1964 — 45 years of MORONS.

  6. Rob Richie

    Aaron — good points. But the threshold problem is worse, as they have staggered elections, with three seats up and two seats up. The Latino share of the voting population is lower than the threshold with these numbers of seats.

    For an example of how cumulative voting has worked in Amarillo, a community where the latino voting share is above the threshold, see:
    http://www.fairvote.org/?page=240

  7. icr

    Aaron has a point about larger legislatures and PR. It serves no real purpose to elect mirror-image two houses-as in 49 of the 50 states-never thinking beyond electing by FPTP or other forms of plurality voting. In a more logical country some group or another would advance the idea of electing one house of state legislatures by party-list PR (open-list would be an easier sell) or STV.

    Given the ongoing bipartisan economic crisis and BHO continuing W’s war policy in AfPak, there must be a lot of independents and weak D and R partisans who would be amenable to starting the process of breaking up the duopoly. It could be doable in a state with initiative and referendum.

  8. Demo Rep

    The 2 house stuff was inherited from England with the EVIL hereditary House of Lords and the then super gerrymander House of Commons — with its many, many low population *rotten boroughs* — i.e. both extremely oligarchial bodies in 1775-1776.

    How many nations manage to survive with a ONE house national legislative body ???

    Two houses might only be used with overlapping terms — e.g. 2 year terms – 1 house in odd years, other house in even years.

    Since there is only MORE govt or LESS govt any legislative body can technically have 3 members — or 2 members IF each has the actual number of votes received (unequal votes P.R.).

    Reality check — about 25-30 percent minority rule in ALL larger legislative bodies in the U.S.A.

    About 10 percent minority rule in the U.S.A. Senate — due to many very small States.

    About 45-55 percent rule in many at large bodies — cities, villages, townships — not all voters vote for all seat positions (but little if any minority representation).

  9. Aaron Hamlin

    That’s a good point, Rob. It matters less how many seats are on the board and it matters more how many go up at each election. If only half the seats go up at a time, it ruins the threshold by making it higher.

    I’m also encouraged by the piece you reference on Amarillo. Semi-proportional is still worlds better than plurality, as you evidenced. As much as I like something other than single districts or multi-member plurality, I am starved to see STV spread beyond Cambridge, MA. It’s seeping slowly, but I still can’t wait. I want the US’s history of STV to come back to life.

  10. Jim Riley

    #6 I think it is a bit disingenuous, even by FairVote and Rob Richie standards, to attribute the passage and signing of SB 1, a 577-page rewrite of the Texas Election code to inclusion of the cumulative voting provisions.

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