Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Real Representation: Case Studies of Forces that Changed Municipal Elections in Select California Cities
by Groves, Beth Ann, D.P.A., University of La Verne, 2019, 124; 13805820
Abstract (Summary)

Purpose. This research sought to explore the factors that influenced the policy decision to change a city council electoral system from an at-large structure to a by-district structure. The structure of the electoral system impacts representation in that it creates the rules and requirements as to how people are elected and who can vote for them. This study provided context for local government decision making. This context provides decision makers and citizens alike with insight into the degree of influence exerted in the public policy process by internal and external forces.

Theoretical Framework. Three lenses were used: social exchange (Blau, 2017), focusing events (Birkland, 2013; Kingdon, 2003) and Force Field Analysis (Lewin, 1951)) to describe the interaction of theory in explaining the antecedent factors, focusing events, and forces that were present during the local decision-making process.

Methodology. This was a descriptive, multiple case study design. It looked at multiple cities in an effort to identify the driving and restraining forces that led to changing a specific public policy. Specifically, it conducted content analysis and applied Lewin’s force field analysis to public documents in an effort to understand the antecedent factors leading to the change in the structure of the electoral system in select California cities.

Findings/Conclusions. Both driving and restraining forces were evident in the policy process for change. Four categories of forces were identified: social, political, economic and legal. In the case of the change to a By-District Voting system taking place throughout California, the community itself has not necessarily identified a problem in need of a solution. Rather, a lawsuit—or threat of a lawsuit—is the impetus for change—wanted or not. Given that the focusing event for the voting system policy change examined in this research is litigation, most discussion and input takes place behind closed doors with input being from attorneys and city management staff. While this is important in order to create legislative strategy, it does omit input from the citizens who will be impacted by the decisions. Therefore, the question remains, once fully implemented, will the change in the structure of the electoral system bring “better” representation?

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Schildt, Keith
Commitee: Beaumaster, Suzanne, Kling, Mark
School: University of La Verne
Department: Business and Public Management
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-A 80/07(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Public administration
Keywords: Municipal elections, California
Publication Number: 13805820
ISBN: 978-0-438-94886-0
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