Some 13% of the world’s countries have compulsory voting, according to data compiled by the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance.

Unsurprisingly, countries with compulsory voting tend to have a much higher turnout. In  Belgium, Turkey and Australia, three nations with compulsory voting, the turnout was 87.2% (in 2014), 86.4% (2011)  and 80.5% (2013) respectively. This compares with just 53.6% turnout in 2012 in the United States, where there is no legal obligation to vote.

Turnout doesn’t get close to 100% even when voting is compulsory, because the laws are not always strictly enforced. Yet their impact is dramatic. For example, according to Pew Research, turnout plunged in Chile after it moved from compulsory to voluntary voting in 2012: from 87% of registered voters in the 2010 presidential election to 42% in 2013.

The map below shows countries with no compulsory voting, compulsory voting and no elections.



Author: José Santiago, Senior Associate, Public Engagement, World Economic Forum

Image: A surfboard rider walks past a polling booth for referendum voting REUTERS