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In the latest EU parliament elections only 13% of voters in Slovakia showed up to vote. This raised the question - which major democratic election had the lowest turnout in history?

To clarify:

  • Democratic means the country in question was a democracy at the time, at least on paper
  • Election means any casting of votes where a specific elected position was to be filled. This excludes primaries or other votes where the election does not guarantee that a particular person/party would fill a particular position within the government.
  • Major means at least 100 thousand voters were eligible to participate in the election as a whole
  • Turnout means the percentage of voters participating in the election as a whole, not the turnout in any particular district
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  • There are still some awkward corner cases in your criteria. E.g. do US party primaries count? Do caucuses. Do local or parliamentary election count, in which there may be millions of people voting, but perhaps less than 100,000 for any individual position (this impacts back on the primary question). – origimbo May 19 '18 at 15:27
  • Obviously, the highest is in North Korea... – xuq01 May 20 '18 at 4:39
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I haven't checked whether there is anything lower, and I may be pushing your definitions somewhat, but English and Welsh Police and Crime Commissioner elections are fertile ground for record lows. In particular:

  • The first PCC elections in 2012 all recorded a turnout less than 20%. The lowest turnout was 11.63% from 850,000 potential voters in Staffordshire, though the West Midlands recorded 11.96% from nearly 2,000,000 voters. The combined turnout for all positions was 15.1%.
  • The aforementioned PCC for the West Midlands died in 2014 prompting a by-election. The turnout in that by-election was 10.38%.

These are not considered particularly major elections domestically - as the turnout would rather demonstrate - but they are large-scale elections for positions covering large areas (most of the electorates are over a million people). I did wonder whether they meet the last criterion ("percentage of voters participating in the election as a whole, not the turnout in any particular district"), but they are separate elections for separate positions and not elections to a wider assembly or parliament so I think they count.

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Interesting question. I have found this site which covers the most recent elections toyed a little with it and Slovakia seems to have set a (negative) record: 13.05% voter turnover for EU parliament elections.

I could not find a lower voter turnover, the closest being Parliamentary elections in Haiti with 17.82%, Haiti having more than 5M registered voters.

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