One man, six votes – UPDATED

I don’t even know what to say, except I’m thinking it is setting a dicey precedent. Is this part of the “remaking America” thing?

Arthur Furano voted early — five days before Election Day. And he voted often, flipping the lever six times for his favorite candidate.

Furano cast multiple votes on the instructions of a federal judge and the U.S. Department of Justice as part of a new election system crafted to help boost Hispanic representation.

Voters in Port Chester, 25 miles northeast of New York City, are electing village trustees for the first time since the federal government alleged in 2006 that the existing election system was unfair. The election ended Tuesday night, but the vote count extended into early Wednesday at the village clerk’s office, and no results had been announced.

Although the village of about 30,000 residents is nearly half Hispanic, no Latino had ever been elected to any of the six trustee seats, which until now were chosen in a conventional at-large election. Most voters were white, and white candidates always won.

Federal Judge Stephen Robinson said that violated the Voting Rights Act, and he approved a remedy suggested by village officials: a system called cumulative voting, in which residents get six votes each to apportion as they wish among the candidates. He rejected a government proposal to break the village into six districts, including one that took in heavily Hispanic areas.

Furano and his wife, Gloria Furano, voted Thursday.

“That was very strange,” Arthur Furano, 80, said after voting. “I’m not sure I liked it. All my life, I’ve heard, `one man, one vote.’”

Read it all. Is anyone seeing this happen ’round their way?

UPDATE: Seems I am a tad late to the story. Melissa Clouthier noted this last week and Selwyn Duke wrote here.

I need to learn more about this before I know what I think.

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  • Angela

    How do they know who is “Hispanic” and deserves the opportunity to cast 6 votes instead of one? Is there now a “Department of Hispanicity” to decide? Good grief!

  • Left Coast Conservative

    Not out here in Oregon, yet. PDX made a negative statement about the AZ bill. All seems “normal” at the moment but this is something to watch for.
    Very strange.

  • Maureen

    That is evil and wrong. The way minorities get power is to form coalitions, not getting extra votes. (Except in machine politics, of course, but that would be the illegal version.) I can’t imagine why people didn’t tar and feather everyone involved with such a rule. Especially the people getting extra votes, because it’s insulting.

  • Maureen

    I mean that the people getting extra votes should _do_ the tar and feathering, because they’re the ones being insulted most. (Besides Liberty and Justice.)

  • Aimee

    Um, how will this address this issue of low voter turnout for Hispanics? Or are Hispanic voters theoretically supposed to “make up for” the low turnout of others by being able to vote several times for the same (presumably Hispanic) candidate? And how on earth did the judge decide that the Voting Rights Act was violated because of low voter turnout in a particular demographic? There’s so much wrong here, I feel like I MUST be missing something. All I’m seeing is a presumption that voters must be represented by folks of the same ethnic background–or something “unfair” is happening. (What does that say about minorities in elected office where most people are white???) I’m also seeing terrible condescension–Hispanic voters can’t be expected to rally the troops, so let’s give everyone extra votes.

    Wow. Just wow.

  • Aimee

    Also, as I understand it, everyone gets the extra votes. So couldn’t they end up with precisely the same problem they started with?

  • Andy

    It’s hard to tell, but I’m guessing that the newspaper article didn’t get the whole story; probably because the reporter didn’t really understand what the judge did. (Hard to believe that, isn’t it?)

    I’m guessing that the judge ordered a cumulative voting scheme. In other words, there are six slots to be voted upon, so each voter gets six votes and can cast them any way he wishes. If he wants to cast all six for one candidate, then he can.

    This is extremely common in corporations where the shareholders can vote their shares cumulatively for the Board of Directors. It helps to make sure that minority shareholders can get a seat on the Board. It sounds to me like the judge created something like that to handle this case.

    If I’m right, the gentleman in the article didn’t get any more votes than anybody else – he just chose to cast them all for the same candidate.

  • Just_Saying

    We’re all minorities now. Maybe the Voting Rights Act needs a little modification…

  • Beverly Lynn

    The article states that everyone gets 6 votes, not just Hispanics. Giving each voter 6 votes allows more expressive power to the voter, should they choose to spread their votes around. Mathematically speaking, this is not the best way give the voter more expressive power, game theory has proven that there are better ranking systems and alternative vote systems. Ranking voting systems would help eliminate run-offs and could also break the monopoly of the two-party system. Similar systems are already used in some primaries.

  • archangel

    What seems to be lost here, and granted its a “village”/municiple vote, is that we are NOT a direct democracy. We are a democratic republic. We elect council members, members of congress, to represent us as a whole. What is being displayed here is an exercise in direct democracy and something that was directly REJECTED by the founding fathers simply because it does not work.

    To many people, and this includes many Federal judges, believe we are a direct democracy or are attempting to push it that way. If the above situation were to be challenged in SCOTUS, it would be overturned in a heart beat. That “feral” judge is just another in a long line. If this is happening anywhere else, don’t bemoan it… challenge it.

  • Myssi

    We have at large members for our local school board. Last election, there were 3 open seats and 7 people ran. Our ballot was set up to allow us to vote for 3 out of the 7, but we could not vote for any of them more than once. It can’t be that hard to do. Surely if we hillbillies can figure it out, the New York sophisticates should be able to do it as well.

  • James Stephens

    This is a form of something known as “proportional representation,” and you might remember it as part of the controversy over President Clinton’s nomination of Lani Guinier as Assistant Attorney General. I think the idea is this; if a voter has a number of votes to cast for a number of open seats on, say, a town council, he may vote for several candidates or cast all his votes for just one. The pro-argument seems to be that corporate boards, school boards, professional societies sometimes work like this. When it “works” you tend—I think—to get something like the parliamentary democracy you see in Europe.

  • shirley elizabeth

    So, this is going to fix the fact that Hispanics in the area don’t show up to vote?

  • cathyf

    Actually cumulative voting is one well-tested solution to conducting votes when there are more than 2 options and more than one choice. In this particular case, where the claim is that you have 6 at-large members where there are fairly clear geographically distributed constituencies, it seems to me that dividing up into 6 wards would be a much better solution.

    But there are other variations on the same problem, where we also use multiple votes. Think of a presidential race — first primaries, then a general election, then the electoral college. That is a different way of slicing the problem — a multi-pass solution.

    But, anyway, there is lots of interesting social science in studying various voting schemes. Quite frankly, my diagnosis here is that this is more likely a case of excessive wonkiness — the DOJ people who enforce the voting rights act are specialists with special interest in voting theories, so they came up with an exotic solution because the boring (and better) solution wasn’t as cool.

  • silverpie

    Actually, cathyf, the DoJ wanted them to convert to a district system. The locals themselves selected cumulative voting as a solution that wouldn’t require six different sets of machines (New York still uses the old mechanical voting machines).

  • Palin

    Folks, you’re all missing the point. You talk of a “solution,” missing the point that no solution is necessary because there is no problem.

    When you’re 20% of the voting population, guess what? You don’t get to determine the composition of government unless you can convince others to vote your way. Would this be done if the minority were ideological and not racial?

    Stop drinking the PC Kool-Aid.

  • Tonestaple

    The idea behind this is that all the Hispanics will vote for a Hispanic candidate – seems a little bit racist, don’t you think?

    I read about this elsewhere, and the other writer noted that they have at-large elections. The federal court apparently turned down the idea of splitting the town up into districts, in which one could manage a safe Hispanic district if that’s your only concern. I swear we need to get rid of all the federal judges and start from scratch.

  • c matt

    Cumulative voting is a long standing concept in corporate America and very common. It allows those with perhaps less than majority holdings to at least have some representation on the corporate board.

    In fact, it is a rather interesting concept to apply to political votes. I don’t really see how anyone could call it unfair as long as everyone gets to cumulate their votes. It’s not as if only the hispanic voters get to cumulate, I assume.

  • c matt

    Archangel, I think you are wrong – cumulative voting does nothing to alter the republican form of government. You are not cumulatively voting on a proposed piece of legislation (that would be direct democracy), you are still cumulatively voting for a candidate to then represent you. That representitive will then vote on legislation (ostensibly in your name).

  • c matt

    Giving each voter 6 votes allows more expressive power to the voter, should they choose to spread their votes around.

    Actually, I think the theory is the opposite – the voter gets more expressive power by concentrating his 6 votes on one candidate, rather than spreading it over all six.

  • c matt

    I doubt cumulative voting will do much to cure low turnout – you still have to show up to cumulatively vote, after all.

  • archangel


    Corporate voting is based on the amount of shares one has purchased of an individual company. The more shares, the stronger voting power. It is not and should not be applicable to the political arena.

    What that would imply is a democratic aristocracy. He/She with the most bucks gets the most votes in that kind of set up.

    Either way, the point is moot. Should the whole thing be challenged, I’m am fairly confident the federal judge suggesting this sham would be overturned.

  • TC

    Cumulative voting (or other schemes like PR) could empower political minorities like Right-to-Lifers, Greens and, yes, outright kooks but it would serve to break the Demopublican monopoly on power.

  • Mimsy

    More Red Queen justice, apparently.

  • JBalconi

    You can’t vote for the same candidate 6 times. It’s like when you elect a school board. You can vote for no more than 2; so you could choose to vote for only one, but that would be only one vote for the candidate.