The Conversation Continues: Single-Member District Elections for AISD

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The conversation is just getting started when it comes to single-member district elections for Amarillo ISD board members.

There was a vote, but it was not to make a change.

James Allen was the board member who requested the topic to be put on the agenda. 

Tonight he brought up a motion to get more information regarding the steps to move from cumulative voting to single-member districts.

A decision wasn’t made tonight and that’s what some who attended were wondering as well.

The thing is, there’s still a lot of moving parts to this discussion. 

It’s been nearly 20 years since at-large voting has been in place for the AISD board.

When voters cast a ballot for school board members, they can apply their votes to any combination of candidate or candidates they want. 

While single-member district elections would be a candidate representing an area of Amarillo. For example the Northside, Eastside and so on and so forth.

There were some confusion and lack of communication or miscommunication among board members and it even led to a heated exchange between Allen and Board President Jim Austin.

What Allen was requesting ahead of this meeting was a list of where every board member has lived since 1999.

He wanted to see if that makeup reflected who the board was helping.

That couldn’t be provided tonight.

In a unanimous vote, the board decided to discuss this topic again, whether in an open or closed session and on any agenda in the future.

When we spoke with Austin this afternoon, he said making the election change would be bad for the board and the area and what we have now is a great compromise, but those who spoke during the public comment section disagree.

“It’s divisive, and so you end up pitting one member against another because each member has their own agenda and that’s not in the best interest in the district,” said Austin.

“I’ve never thought the cumulative voting system was ever a great compromise. All the cumulative system did was assure that the same people keep getting elected,” said Craig Gualtiere, who wants a single-member district.

Gualtiere said if board members agree to go the single-member district route they could vote themselves out of a job by having to move district around, but he said that’s what we call true leadership.    

The board’s attorney shared that changing to an at-large voting system for the board was settled in a lawsuit agreement in 1999, and she shared that agreement was signed by the AISD Board at the time, the NAACP, LULAC, and other groups.

Austin told us this is the first time single-member district elections have been brought up on the agenda. 

He said we’re currently under a federal order for cumulative voting and it would be a lengthy process to get out of it.

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