Port Chester trustee election: field notes and a fact-check on cumulative voting
Port Chester Village Hall was abuzz last night during the closely-watched tally of votes in the trustee election, the culmination of a three-year-old voting rights case. By 1 a.m., it was down to myself and the News 12 crew waiting outside the clerk’s office along with lawyers from both sides of the legal battle.
The vote counting seemed more complicated under cumulative voting, mainly because of the six boxes/levers for each candidate. I watched as the write-in ballots were read off, showing multiple votes for John Palma and one single vote for the unannounced candidate “Fluffy.”
(Results are posted here.)
A few things worth noting today:
The big news is the election of the first Latino to the village board. But Randolph McLaughlin, the Pace Law professor representing another plaintiff in the Justice Department’s lawsuit, noted that the goal of this election system was to permit the election of a Hispanic-preferred candidate, not necessarily a Hispanic candidate. “I am curious to see whether the Hispanic candidate was preferred by Hispanic voters,” he said after the results came in. It may turn out that someone else was actually the one Hispanics rallied behind. Data crunchers will look at voting patterns in areas that are predominantly Hispanic in an effort to see how minorities used cumulative voting. If you think the voting rights case is over, remember that the court maintains jurisdiction until at least 2016. And the parties in the suit have the right to raise objections over the system in the coming weeks.
“Certainly it’s a historic day for Port Chester,” McLaughlin said.
A number of headlines around the Web emphasized the fact that Port Chester voters were given six votes, as if that were the big innovation. But the reason people got six votes is that there were six seats to fill. It would have been a more radical change (say, under “limited voting”) if people got fewer than six. It is true that Port Chester voters used to get two votes per year, because two seats were open. But the real twist is that you can stack your votes up on one person or whatever combination you wish. Given that this whole thing brings up hot-button issues of immigration, demographic changes and minority rights, the election is being spun in all kinds of ways on the Web.
Another open question is the turnout. Because of the flexibility in cumulative voting, it’s not immediately apparent how many voters turned out at the polls, Village Clerk Joan Mancuso said.