Cumulative voting, used in Port Chester for the second time Tuesday, had clear benefits for at least two winning trustee candidates, Democrat Luis Marino and the independent Gene Ceccarelli.
Marino placed fourth in 2010 to become the first Hispanic elected to the village board. He was the top vote-getter this time, helped by a get-out-the-vote drive from the Hispanic Democrats of Westchester.
Cumulative voting was adopted as an alternative to a ward system in the wake of the voting rights lawsuit USA v. Port Chester. The old method – electing two trustees at large per year – prevented Hispanic voters from getting their preferred candidates into office, a judge found.
For Robin Bikkal, chair of the Hispanic Democrats of Westchester, Port Chester’s election shows the potential of cumulative voting. In principle, it lets any group channel their voting power and gain a representative – in contrast to “winner take all” contests.
“From the beginning I thought it was kind of strange, but I haven’t seen this kind of result,” she said Wednesday. “It’s made a difference, and it ensured that a qualified candidate that’s been good to the community was able to get re-elected.”
Ceccarelli, who won a seat on his second try, said the system was helpful to him. (He placed third, ahead of three incumbents.) Members of a party slate may not have the freedom to ask for six votes, but independents can go all out.
The retired law enforcement officer has been involved with the village comprehensive plan and waterfront commission, and could become a swing vote on the board. “I will try to maintain that middle ground, where I can look at things from both sides,” he said.
The trustee race is not necessarily over, Village Clerk Janusz Richards said Wednesday. Twenty-four affidavit ballots will be opened on Thursday, he said. Theoretically each ballot could be “plumped,” giving six votes to a particular candidate, and changing the outcome.