Over the last 40 years, voter turnout has been steadily declining in the established democracies. This trend has been significant in the United States, Western Europe, Japan and Latin America. It has been a matter of concern and controversy among political scientists for several decades. During this same period, other forms of political participation have also declined, such as voluntary participation in political parties and the attendance of observers at town meetings.

Have there been any successful approaches in western democracies to increase the voter turnout?

  • just in the US there's been numerous ones...rock the vote, get out the vote drives, voter registration efforts, concerts, rallies, changes to mail-in voting in areas, same-day-registration movements, advertising, phone calling, door-to-door canvasing, etc. I think this question is going to be too broad.
    – user1530
    Commented Oct 22, 2015 at 18:38
  • but I think there wasn't a greater voter turnout afterwards. so these campaigns have not been successfully
    – Sir Sy
    Commented Oct 22, 2015 at 19:20
  • Same-day-voter-registration seems to have been succesful: bangordailynews.com/2011/10/03/politics/… Mail-in-voting appears to help as well: huffingtonpost.com/maria-ehsan/… the catch is that all of these methods are going to be hard to peg direct correlation to voter turnouts.
    – user1530
    Commented Oct 22, 2015 at 19:29

3 Answers 3


Well, voting is compulsory in Australia, Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay.

It's pretty effective in making sure that the whole population has political representation. At least in Uruguay, the fie is not too high, although public employees do get worse consequences.

Remember that you if you don't like any option, you can vote blank.

  • ha! yes, this is a great one, actually. Mandatory voting is certainly a good way to increase turnout.
    – user1530
    Commented Oct 29, 2015 at 19:43
  • Can you vote blank in other countries as well, or mostly just the ones with compulsory voting? Commented Nov 2, 2015 at 1:38
  • Note that a blank vote might influence the election results (At least it does in Argentina)
    – Sebastianb
    Commented May 2, 2018 at 20:52

While not exactly an explicit attempt to increase turnout, the Independence issue in Scotland caused a massive increase in political activity. The turnout on the independence vote was 84%, and in the general election the following year, Scotland had a turnout of 71% which was far higher than the UK average.

It seems to me that people will find themselves invested if they honestly believe their lives are going to change in a meaningful way. In regards to the USA, it could be that not enough people believe there's a big enough difference between parties. I'd recommend a change to the voting system, one that would allow for a third party. That would require consent of the two main parties however, so it's unlikely to happen soon.


The voter turnout have more approach than just put a mandatory.

The electoral approach: The electoral body often make some advertising, promoting the use of vote, specially in young democracies. Making the vote mandatory is a way but I think there are other ways to increase it such as promotion of more transparency in the electoral process, allowing independent parties to seat in the polling table (juridically and electorally), increase the participation of people with disabilities and others.

The political approach: The electoral body put all the tools to make possible the vote but the one who cheer people to participate is the politicians. People only react to a certain political spectrum, meaning that participation also depend of what the political parties have to offer to citizenship. We could make some comparisons between a local and national election: the local election has a certain participation and the national other. Why? Because the promotion of each election; There's also the hypothesis that political parties (the big ones) don't want lot of participation because they don't have all the votes.

The society approach: When the society is weak, when the civic education is low (or doesn't exist), when there's no promotion of real democracy, society won't participate because they're not interested or they don't know the advantages of the process. This is when NGOs such as International IDEA, UN Political Office (in their Electoral Department) and other organizations have an important role helping with electoral assistance through the electoral body.

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