Does ranked choice voting (RCV) affect voter participation? Depends whom you ask.
When RCV folds two elections into one, it nearly always will increase turnout over at least one of the two elections. University of Missouri professor David Kimball found that participation increased after cities consolidated the two-part runoff into a single ‘instant’ runoff using RCV.
But there’s more debate about RCV’s more general impact on turnout.
Some argue that RCV should increase turnout by encouraging candidates to engage with more voters and enabling voters to make more honest choices, in turn amplifying the impact and relevance of local elections. Others argue that the extra understanding required to rank choices may lead some to avoid the ballot box altogether. While academics continue to sling journal articles back and forth on this topic, the facts on the ground speak for themselves, clearly showing that jurisdictions that use RCV to elect their mayors have seen record turnout this cycle.
This does not necessarily resolve the turnout debate one way or another, but it does point to one important conclusion. More and more Americans are participating in elections where they get to register their full preferences, and in which every winner is elected by a majority of voters when matched against their strongest challenger.