What is the difference between a single-member district election and an at-large system?

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At the federal level, single-member elections are how congressional representatives in the House of Representatives are elected. Each state is divided into districts, and each district has the opportunity to elect a member to represent specifically that district. At the federal level, at-large elections are how senators are elected. Every person within a state has the ability to elect someone to represent that state as a whole. At-large elections are often staggered, whereby states typically do not elect both of their senators in the same election cycle.

In order to compare these systems, it’s best to examine local elections, such as city elections. Cities can employ one or a mix of these methods in order to elect city representatives. Some cities create districts within their city and then allow each district to elect their representation at the city level. In this single-member method, the idea is that decreasing the scope of a constituency should in theory allow for representatives...

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