Designing accurate and secure voting systems requires vigilant action to protect them from manipulation and constant reassessment of existing systems. Below is an interesting article from Voice of Orange City written by Spencer Custodio calling into question the use of an at-large election method:
District elections could be implemented in Orange, following a voting rights lawsuit claiming the city’s current at-large election method disenfranchises the Latino electorate and hinders the election of Latino candidates.
“The imposition of at-large elections by the City of Orange has resulted in vote dilution for the Latino residents and has denied them effective political participation in elections to the five-member Orange City Council,” reads the Feb. 13 court filing by attorney Kevin Shenkman.
Shenkman is representing the Southwest Voter Education Representation Project (SVREP), a nonprofit that tries to increase Latino and other minority political participation through voter registration, networking and promote upcoming elections. The SVREP has also sued multiple cities across the state over at-large elections, including Mission Viejo.
With at-large systems, all voters can vote for all seats up for election (i.e. when electing five representatives, voters can vote for five candidates). Depending on the system, all candidates may run against one another, with the highest vote getters winning election, or candidates may run for individual, designated seats. In some cases, runoffs will be used to ensure that all winners have majority support, while in others it is possible to win with a simple plurality. At-large systems are used to elect city councils in Cincinnati, Detroit and Seattle, as well as many other municipal and county governments. Other bodies, including the Maryland Statehouse, divide land up into multi-member districts, from which representatives are elected at large.
At-large systems allow 50 percent of voters to control 100 percent of seats, and in consequence typically result in racially and politically homogenous elected bodies. From this perspective, they are even worse than district systems, where it is possible to draw individual districts where political, racial or ethnic minority groups can control individual seats. At-large systems have frequently been struck down under the Voting Rights Act for not providing communities of color with fair representation.