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In the Soviet Union it was common for each election to have a 99% turnout, however those statistics were obviously falsified and nobody took them seriously. Likewise modern despotic regimes frequently report turnouts over 95%. But what was the highest recorded turnout in a country that was an actual democracy?

To clarify:

  • Democratic means the country in question was widely accepted to be a democracy at the time of the vote
  • The election itself should likewise be democratic according to independent international observers
  • 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
  • Relevant question about the opposite situation: politics.stackexchange.com/questions/31051/… – JonathanReez Jul 3 '18 at 20:47
  • Note that in some countries voting is mandatory and people who fails to go to the poll station may be fined. Should elections in those countries be considered? – SJuan76 Jul 3 '18 at 21:36
  • @SJuan76 yes, as long as international authorities don't contest the validity of their election system. E.g. the Australian system is fine. – JonathanReez Jul 3 '18 at 22:53
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    I don't think that the Soviet election turnout figures were necessarily falsified and certainly not obviously so. The problem with Soviet elections was not inflated turnout, it was that you only had one choice for each office. There is actually a fair amount of political science literature about why one party regimes hold elections and why they care about turnout as much as they do. – ohwilleke Jul 3 '18 at 22:54
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    @ohwilleke the proportion of resident citizens is what matters. – JonathanReez Jul 3 '18 at 22:59
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Probably Australia with well over 96% turnout in multiple elections since 1925. Indeed voter turnout has never dipped below 91%.

It is worth noting however that voting is compulsory in Australia and you can be fined if you don't vote. This contributes significantly to their high voter turnouts.

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    Belgium also had turnout in excess of 90% (now closer to 80% in spite of compulsory voting) and the Netherlands had at least one election with 95% turnout (the last one with compulsory voting, in the 1960s) but I don't have more specific numbers. – Relaxed Jul 4 '18 at 7:24
  • @Relaxed Belgium does not have compulsory voting, it has compulsory presentation (which is a nitpick, I know). Also: it's a public secret that not turning up is still a crime but sanctions are no longer enforced unless you're drafted as polling station official, which explains the falling turnout numbers. – DonFusili Jul 5 '18 at 9:43
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For democracies without compulsory voting, I'd like to throw the German federal elections of 1972 into the ring. The turnout was 91.1%.

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