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Single Transferable Vote and Government Spending: Causal Evidence from US Cities

Thu, August 29, 12:00 to 1:30pm, Marriott, Balcony B


Does multi-winner ranked-choice voting have policy effects? Most research so far has covered single-winner RCV, a majoritarian voting rule that asks voters to rank candidates in order of preference. There is less work on its proportional-voting variant, the single transferable vote (STV), at least as it has existed in the United States. We want to know if comparative findings hold up in America. According to comparative politics, proportional systems (like STV) result in greater public-goods provision and spending overall. When combined with few veto points, however, PR has been found to ease the task of fiscal retrenchment. We use regression discontinuity to test for these effects within the United States. Our data include vote shares in roughly 50 STV referenda, 1900-1950. Twenty-four of these referenda led to city-level STV systems. Our paper contributes to literature on the policy effects of electoral institutions, as well the debate over ranked-choice voting reforms. We focus on the city level, where spending patterns and fiscal health are most likely to influence Americans directly.


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