In Defense of At-Large Representation: A Positive Approach

32 Pages Posted: 6 Feb 2004

See all articles by Paul H. Edelman

Paul H. Edelman

Vanderbilt University - Law School

Date Written: 2004


This paper reconsiders the merits of at-large representation in municipal councils from a positive perspective. After briefly reviewing the normative justifications for at-large representation, I develop a voting model of a council election that includes some at-large representation and show that under this model a citizen's voting power is maximized when the number of at-large representatives is roughly the square root of the total number of representatives. This is the first positive model to establish the benefits of at-large representation and the only positive model of an election that produces such explicit recommendations.

The voting model I employ is based on an earlier voting model developed by John Banzhaf that has been used in litigation several times. I provide both an explication of his model and a review and critique of its uses by the courts. I conclude the essay with a discussion of the legal and policy implications of these results.

Keywords: At-large representation, weighted voting, Banzhaf measure

Suggested Citation

Edelman, Paul H., In Defense of At-Large Representation: A Positive Approach (2004). Vanderbilt Law and Economics Research Paper No. 04-02; Vanderbilt Public Law Research Paper No. 04-02. Available at SSRN: or

Paul H. Edelman (Contact Author)

Vanderbilt University - Law School ( email )

131 21st Avenue South
Nashville, TN 37203-1181
United States
615-322-0990 (Phone)
615-322-6631 (Fax)

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