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Utah's Foremost Platform for Undergraduate Research Presentation
2022 Abstracts

Examining the Effects of Electoral Systems on Minority Representation in U.S. City Councils Using a Large Sample

Presenter: Grant Baldwin
Authors: Grant Baldwin
Faculty Advisor: Adam Dynes
Institution: Brigham Young University

In recent decades, municipal reform movements have lobbied to remove at-large elections from local governing bodies and replace them with elections by district—in which a city’s electorate is divided into geographic regions that each elect their own council member. Prior social science research has somewhat concluded that in most cases, district elections more reliably elect non-white city councilors than at-large elections. However, these studies are limited by their use of small samples of municipalities, usually only the largest ones (pop. > 25,000) or those from a single state. I hope to overcome this limitation by employing a massive sample of more than 15,000 municipal governments across 49 states. My findings are consistent with and build upon previous research in that I conclude that as the proportion of non-white residents within a city’s population increases, district elections are predicted to elect higher proportions of non-white council members than wholly at-large elections. I also conclude that the effects of district elections on minority representation are greater in cities with populations fewer than 25,000 residents, and that district elections strengthen Black representation in cities with higher levels of Black-white segregation.