So, comments in this question mentioning extremes such as "nobody voted in election at all", led me to wonder:

What was the election where the LEAST percentage of eligible voters participated?

The choices are limited to:

  • "populace-wide" elections. E.g. at least 50% of population of a locale are eligible to vote.

  • Elections within last 300 years.

  • Mostly, I'm interested in national level elections in countries that can at least on some level be considered established "democracies" - e.g. those that have a history of, at least 20 years of popular elections prior.

  • Excluded are cases where there are legitimate reasons for low turnout (e.g., the people are avoiding voting because there's a war/insurrection/government thugs scaring them off - such as post-US-invasion Iraq or Mugabe's Zimbabwe).

  • Similarly excluded are special situations, e.g when people are prevented from voting by natural disasters etc...

In other words, I'm interested in the elections where the main/only reason one can assume for the low turnout is voter apathy/bad set of choices to vote for/general-low-election-participation culture.

  • 1
    Not a specific answer (which is what you are looking for), but it would appear that, if speaking of averages, it'd be a US election of some sort: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voter_turnout
    – user1530
    Oct 5, 2013 at 1:32
  • 1
  • @JonathanReez this question is older and your question doesn't seem to improve significantly on this one. I recommend closing that newer question as a duplicate of this one.
    – JJJ
    Oct 13, 2018 at 8:06
  • @JJJ at this point it doesn't matter which question is older, only which one has better answers. Oct 13, 2018 at 8:21
  • @JonathanReez this question seems to have a lower percentage as an answer, 4.21%. Why do you think the other question has better answers? If they are all good answers, perhaps both questions are too broad.
    – JJJ
    Oct 13, 2018 at 8:26

2 Answers 2


This article running in the Dallas Observer states that the Dallas City Council run-off election had a participation rate of 4.21 percent of registered voters. That link took me a grand total of a minute to find, so I'm sure there are less.

As a former voter registrar, I can say that in general, people forget primaries and local races. City Councils and even statewide races are probably more important to most citizens' lives (trash? roads? schools? welfare? abortion? drugs? vs. what does the federal government do again? oh yeah - make treaties with other countries and fund cow fart studies) but they are almost always neglected.

My native Virginia, in particular, actually moved its guberantorial elections to non-presidential years back at the height of the Carter Glass & Byrd machines specifically to take advantage of this lower voter turnout. Worked like a charm.


The Swiss Federal Elections are well known for their very low voter turnouts. The turnout has been less than 50% since 1979:

  • 2011: 49.10%
  • 2007: 48.28%
  • 2003: 45.22%
  • 1999: 43.22%
  • 1995: 42.25%
  • 1991: 46.04%
  • 1987: 47.48%
  • 1983: 48.91%
  • 1879: 48.06%

Source: Voter turnout data for Switzerland, International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance.

A major contributing factor to the low referendums is Switzerland's unique political system; a semi-direct democracy. The Swiss hold referendums quite often (8 in 2013 so far), and voters have the chance to vote directly on the issues they care about. That said, the turnout for the referendums is also typically under 50%.

  • 2
    Even some US national elections have turnouts under 40%. Oct 7, 2013 at 16:45
  • Sure @DJClayworth, but the curious thing about the Swiss elections is that they are consistently under 50% (and so are the referendums, except a couple in the last decade).
    – yannis
    Oct 7, 2013 at 20:26

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