Relative Difference and the Dean Method: A Comment on 'Getting the Math Right'

14 Pages Posted: 5 Mar 2009 Last revised: 10 Mar 2009

Mark M. Bell

Waller Lansden Dortch & Davis, LLP

Date Written: February 4, 2009


This response critiques a recent Article, Getting the Math Right: Why California Has Too Many Seats in the House of Representatives, on the doctrine of "one person one vote" as applied to congressional apportionment by Professor Paul H. Edelman. Professor Edelman discusses the background of "one person one vote" in the congressional apportionment context and asserts that because of a mathematical flaw, the Court in U.S. Department of Commerce v. Montana incorrectly permitted a method of congressional apportionment that is not in accordance with "one person one vote." Professor Edelman's mathematical assertion is fundamentally correct; the Court did not use the correct denominator in its calculations. This response proposes that even if the Court was presented with the correct mathematical calculations, the Court should not have been persuaded. This response also argues that there should be a distinction between relative deviation, used in districting, and relative difference, used in apportionment. This response provides a different way to calculate relative difference than proposed by Professor Edelman and the Court.

Keywords: Apportionment, difference, deviation, relative deviation, Webster, method

Suggested Citation

Bell, Mark M., Relative Difference and the Dean Method: A Comment on 'Getting the Math Right' (February 4, 2009). Vanderbilt Law Review, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN:

Mark M. Bell (Contact Author)

Waller Lansden Dortch & Davis, LLP ( email )

511 Union Street, Suite 2700
Nashville, TN 37219
United States

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