At-large vs. District Municipal Elections

With Horsham Township almost evenly split between Republicans and Democrats (with a few independents), shouldn’t the council and school board representation also be a mixture, rather than a Republican monopoly? Lacking regular, vigorous newspaper coverage of these meetings, or televised meetings that residents could watch from home, the best way to ensure transparency in our local government is to make it bipartisan. Be sure to vote on Nov. 7 and elect Veronica Hill-Milbourne and Bill Gallagher to township council, and Jennifer Wilson to Hatboro-Horsham School Board.

Horsham Township’s five council members are elected at-large, meaning that each council member represents the entire township, rather than one of the township’s four voting districts. It’s a small-scale version of having senators (who represent an entire state) instead of members of the House of Representatives (who represent smaller geographic areas within the state). Is this system better or worse than electing a council member from each district?

According to Benjamin Knoll, a political science professor at Centre College in Danville, Ky., about 40% of U.S. municipalities, typically larger urban areas, use district elections, and this format usually is better for representing racial and ethnic minorities, who may be clustered geographically  in a few voting districts. (Voters also may be clustered along party lines.)

 At-large elections are more common in affluent, racially homogenous municipalities. Both systems have their pros and cons: With a district system, council members would be more geographically representative of the township (an at-large system raises the possibility of all council members living in the same neighborhood). However, voters would only be able to vote for the council member from their district. In an at-large system, voters can vote on all council candidates, and the candidate pool is larger. Council members elected by district are accountable to their district; those elected by an at-large system are accountable to the entire township.

Make your voice heard and vote on Tuesday. 



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