- Ranked Choice Voting
- Details about Ranked Choice Voting
- Data on Ranked Choice Voting
- Voter Turnout and Participation
Voter Turnout and Participation
Voter Turnout and Participation Under RCV
Greater participation in our democracy is highly desirable so that our government is truly constructed "by the people." This section explores research on the effects of RCV on two key aspects of participation -- voter turnout and voter engagement.
By giving voters more meaningful choices and reducing the number of wasted votes, ranked choice voting could increase voter turnout. On the other hand, some argue that RCV could depress turnout because it imposes a greater cognitive burden on voters (ranking rather than indicating a single preference). The answer to this question is still open. Here’s a roundup of available research so far.
- A 2020 study by Eamon McGinn of the University of Technology Sydney finds that ranked choice voting caused a 9.6 percentage point increase in turnout in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area. The effect on turnout is higher for precincts with higher poverty rates.
McGinn, E. July 2020. Effect of Instant Run-off Voting on Participation and Civility.
- A 2021 paper by Courtney Juelich of the University of Wisconsin-Stout and Joseph Coll of the University of Iowa finds an increase in youth turnout in RCV cities compared to non-RCV cities. The study suggests that increased campaign civility and mobilization may both play a part, with increased contact in RCV elections accounting for a larger portion of the increase in youth turnout.
Juelich, C & Coll, J. June 2021. Ranked Choice Voting and Youth Voter Turnout: The Roles of Campaign Civility and Candidate Contact.
A study by Professor David Kimball at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, and Ph.D. candidate Joseph Anthony, finds that, on the one hand, RCV in American local elections has a limited impact on turnout. More important factors include a competitive mayoral election, other races on the ballot, and the use of even-year elections. On the other hand, the Kimball and Anthony study shows that, when compared to the primary and runoff elections they replace, RCV general elections are associated with a 10 point increase in voter turnout.
Find FairVote’s one-page summary here and a working version of the Kimball and Anthony paper below.
Kimball, D & Anthony, J. October 2016. Voter Participation with Ranked Choice Voting in the United States.
- A further result from the Kimball and Anthony study showed that turnout disparities between high- and low-income wards were as prevalent before the adoption of RCV as after. While RCV did not ameliorate demographic inequities in turnout, it also did not exacerbate them in Minneapolis.
San Francisco had a highly competitive special election for Mayor in June 2018, which was combined with statewide primaries for governor and senator. The ballot in San Francisco included an RCV race for mayor, and non-RCV races for statewide offices. More San Franciscans participated in the RCV mayoral election (250,868 votes cast for Mayor) than in the non-RCV primaries at the top of the ballot (244,137 for Governor and 237,261 for U.S. Senator), demonstrating that a competitive RCV election can drive turnout.
FairVote examined turnout in the 6 largest U.S. cities using RCV. Our analysis showed strong turnout in RCV races compared to races before RCV implementation and compared to concurrent races in non-RCV cities. This analysis did not attempt to control for other factors, such as competitiveness of races on the ballot, which could drive turnout.
https://e.infogram.com/_/9nL3bCvnsZT2906YvdXa?src=embedTurnout in Bay Area Cities With Control Citiesnoborder:none;allowfullscreen62211980
Voter Engagement in the Democratic Process
- In RCV cities, candidates are more likely to reach out to voters in-person than in cities that do not use RCV. Additionally, voters in RCV cities were more likely to discuss politics with their families, friends or co-workers than voters in cities that do not use RCV.
Smith, Haley. June 2016. Ranked Choice Voting and Participation: Impacts on Deliberative Engagement.