BENCHMARKING & BEST PRACTICES
Voter participation or turnout is defined as the number of votes cast in a national and/or presidential election as a proportion of the voting age population – generally the population aged 18 and over – and may serve as an indicator of societal participation. International comparisons of voter participation rates can be affected by differences in legal voting age, the voter registration process, and whether voting is compulsory or not .
Cross-national comparisons for voter turnout data may be affected by a variety of factors, including the legal voting age, the voting registration system (automatic or requiring action by the potential voter) and whether voting is compulsory or not. In most OECD and European countries, the legal voting age in the national elections is 18 years old, but young people can vote from age 16 in Austria and from age 17 in Korea.
Most countries consider participating in national elections as a right of citizenship. In some countries, voting at elections has been made compulsory and has been regulated in the national constitutions and electoral laws. These countries include: Australia, Belgium, Greece, Luxembourg, Mexico, parts of Switzerland and Turkey.
Registered voters represent a much smaller share of potential voters in the U.S. than in many other OECD countries.
In the U.S., there’s a huge gap between voting-age turnout (62.8% in 2020) and registered-voter turnout (94.1% that same year). In essence, registered voters in the U.S. are much more of a self-selected group than in other countries – already more likely to vote because, in most cases, they took the trouble to register themselves.