Cambridge’s nine City Councillors and six School Committee members are elected at large by Proportional Representation (PR) for a two year term. Any partly or candidate receiving more than 10 percent of the vote can obtain at least one seat on the Council.
Voters may vote for as many candidates as they wish, but they must indicate the order of their preference among the candidates. A candidate needs to win a certain proportion of the the votes to be elected. This proportion is referred to as the “quota”.
The quota is determined by dividing the total number of valid ballots cast by the number of positions to be elected plus one and then adding one to the resulting number. (For example, if 25,000 valid ballots are cast for City Councillors, the quota will be 2,501 (25,000 divided by ten, plus 1).
Ballotsare then sorted by voters’ first preference. Any candidate who reaches the necessary quota with first choice votes is declared elected. Extra ballots they receive beyond the quota, referred to as the “surplus,” are redistributed to the candidates marked as the next choice on the surplus ballots. After the surplus is redistributed, candidates who received fewer than fifty votes in the first count are eliminated. Their ballots are redistributed to the remaining unelected candidates according to the next choice on the ballot.
Aftereach distribution, the candidate with the lowest number of votes is eliminated and his/her ballots are redistributed to the next indicated choice among the remaining unelected candidates.
Ascandidates reach the quota through the addition of redistributed ballots to their totals, they are declared elected and no further ballots are transferred to them. This process continues until all candidates have been eliminated except the nine winners.
Aftermembers of the Council take the oath of office in January, they elect one of the nine to serve as Mayor. The Council appoints the City Manager, City Clerk, and City Auditor. The City Manager is the chief administrative officer of the city carrying out policies of the City Council for an indefinite term. The Mayor is the official head of the city for all ceremonial purposes, the presiding officer of the Council when it is in session, and the chairperson of the School Committee.
- City of Cambridge, Massachusetts has a section on Proportional Voting in Cambridge
- Cambridge City Hall Election Commission
- Proportional Representation Articles and Links – by the Center for Voting and Democracy
- Updates on Legislation and Ballot Measures Covering Proportional Representation and Instant Runoff – Center for Voting and Democracy
- What is Proportional Representation and Why Do We Need This Reform? – by Douglas J. Amy, Mount Holyoke College
- How Proportional Representation Elections Work – by Douglas J. Amy, Mount Holyoke College