Voter turnout is the proportion of eligible voters who cast their vote in a country’s election. Voter turnout can be calculated in various ways, for example, political scientists have defined it as the total votes casts, divided by the number of eligible voters. Michael McDonald, on the other hand, has calculated it as the Voting Eligible Population (VEP) less the non-citizens and ineligible felons from the Voting Age Population (VAP) in a country and further adding the eligible overseas voters to get the voter turnout. There are two factors considered, which include the Voting Age Population (VAP) in a country and the number of Registered Voters (RV). The Pew Research Centre ranked countries with the highest voter turnout and based their calculations on data from International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance and also from European Election Databases on the most recent elections.
Countries With the Highest Voter Turnout
Belgium ranks as the country with the highest voter turnout in the world. Their most recent election was conducted in 2014, with a voting age population of 87.2% and the registered voter turnout being at 89.4%. One of the main reasons for the high voter turnout is that Belgium is among the 24 nations in the world with compulsory voting, and the law requires all eligible voters to vote, and failure to do so could result in fines, losing voting rights, and difficulty in securing a job in the public sector. Another factor is the ease of the voting process because government agencies generate voter lists from pre-existing government information such as income tax returns and driver’s license, which simplify the voting process.
Sweden is the second country with the highest voter turnout in the world, and their recent election was held in 2014. Their voting age population was at 82.6%, and they recorded a registered voter turnout of 85.8%. The high voter turnout can be attributed to Sweden’s highly developed democratic state. Sweden has also set measures to ensure transparency in its public services, therefore promoting trust in public institutions. The existence of generous voting regulations such as permitting early voting, voting by mail, and even allowing the second voting to early voters to change their vote on election day, all contribute to the high voter turnout. They also have automatic voter registration once they become eligible. Another unique quality Sweden offers that may contribute to its high voter turnout is that non-citizens with a residency (those who have lived in the country for up to three years) are allowed to take part in voting. The democracy passports have also been translated into Arabic, eliminating the language barrier. They have also tried to address lower voting rates among single persons, the unemployed, those with low education and lower incomes levels. These have reflected positively on the overall voter turnout.
South Korea is the third country with the highest voter turnout. Their recent election was held in 2017, with a voting age population of 77.9% and a registered voter percentage at 77.2%. Although South Korea has a track record of a high voter turnout, the recent turnout the highest and this can be attributed to the highly contested issues following the impeachment of their first female president, Park Geun-Hye. President Park is the first president to be removed from office through impeachment in South Korea, following accusations of corruption. The high voter turnout can be attributed to the citizens being unhappy with the ruling party and frustration with their leadership. Another notable factor was the high youth voter turnout at 70% of the youth between ages 19-29 years, and this could be credited to the number of youth outreach programs such as celebrity endorsements, mock election days, and media advertising that may have made the youth turn out to vote in large numbers. A notable age difference was also recorded, with the youth voting for the candidate who geared more towards democracy, while the older population voting for the more conservative candidate.
The Voting System in Europe
Different countries across the world have adopted different voting systems, and the electoral system in Europe can be divided into three main categories, which include the majoritarian system (or the first past the post), the proportional system (or the single transferable vote or party list), and the mixed electoral system.