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Chambers College of Business and Economics




Numerous cities across the U.S. have recently switched to ranked choice voting in their local mayoral elections. Proponents argue that, by allowing voters to fully express their preferences over the candidates, voter satisfaction and, ultimately, turnout will improve. Opponents are concerned over the number of candidates who enter the race, as it increases the chances of someone only supported by a minority taking office. To date, there has not been an empirical analysis of ranked choice voting’s effects. First, using the Synthetic Control Method on three large U.S. cities who switched relatively recently, I explore the voting rule’s causal impact. I show that the voting rule does not lead to a noticeable change in voter turnout, but does dramatically increase the number of candidates who compete. Second, I explore the public finance consequences comparing budgets of both these three cities to their synthetics and exploiting a panel data set of municipal budgets, which allows me to include additional treated cities. I provide evidence that budget deficits grow after its implementation. Evidence indicates that the increased spending occurs in public welfare programs.



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