Q:

How are cities divided for City Council elections?

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Quick Answer

In theory, cities are divided into municipal electoral districts in whatever manner provides the best representation of the constituents within the potential district. However, there is an inherent risk of gerrymandering, a process by which electoral districts are modified or redrawn to give a certain candidate, group or political party an unfair advantage, in any electoral system which utilizes the electoral district system.

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In most municipalities, a governing body or committee headed by a chairman, chief elections officer or similar office determines the electoral districts within the city limits. This committee typically has the authority to re-draw districts based on a number of factors, including population changes, changes in zoning policies or major economic shifts.

In addition to the factors mentioned above, electoral districts should be geographically compact. In most situations, a district that has irregular boundaries or covers a particularly large geographic area will be, by nature, less fair and equal.

Elections based solely on electoral districts do not represent the majority of American municipal elections for council members. Instead, most elections use a mixed system wherein votes are cast for a representative of a single member district, along with a vote for proportional representation. Proportional representation allows for multiple elected officials within the district, and seats are awarded based on the proportion of votes cast for each political party within the district.

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