Cumulative voting represents an alternative to the single-member district form of representation that characterizes government on all levels in Texas and the United States. Cumulative voting systems allow voters to cast as many votes as there are seats on a particular board or commission. Candidates must run for a specific seat (e.g., seat #5) as they do in single-member district representation. However, voters can use all their votes on a single candidate or distribute their votes among the contenders for several seats.
In 1995, the Texas Legislature passed and then Governor Bush signed legislation that allowed school districts to switch to cumulative voting. Cumulative voting received an extra boost a few years later when several concerned Black and Latino residents with the support of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) sued the city of Amarillo. The plaintiffs in the Amarillo suit claimed that the city's system for electing the school board unfairly diluted minority votes, denying African Americans and Latinos adequate representation.
Before the new system was implemented, Amarillo had a system for electing school board members that combined elements of single-member districts and a variation of at-large representation called "at-large, numbered-place." Such at-large systems are often used for boards, commissions, panels, chambers, and other multi-member representative bodies. In such systems all members are elected from across the jurisdiction in this case, the entire city of Amarillo. "Numbered-place" means that candidates have to declare which of the several seats they are running for.
In effect, Amarillo's seven-member school board was really composed of seven perfectly overlapping single-member districts, with each district comprising the entire city. The result was that the Anglo majority among the citizenry decided the outcome of elections for every seat on the school board, electing not a single Black or Latino since the 1970s.
The two sides settled on a cumulative voting system going into the 2000 elections, which resulted in the election of an African American man and a Latina. In the next elections in May 2002 a second Latina was elected to the board.