In Defense of At-Large Representation: A Positive Approach
32 Pages Posted: 6 Feb 2004
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
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