As South Africa counts down the final votes left to tally across the country, there’s been just as much attention cast towards those who did not exercise their democratic right this week. Voting isn’t compulsory in South Africa, which may have a few apathetic observers looking at us with envy…
South Africa’s voter turnout
Voter turnout has been far from spectacular in Mzansi for the 2019 Elections. Just 65% of eligible voters bothered to go to the ballot boxes on Wednesday – a record low in this country’s democratic history. However, there are some countries where citizens cannot “opt out” of voting.
If you are politically engaged, however, then keep up to date with our live blog on the election results.
How is voting “enforced”?
In total, 27 nations have made voting in a general election a legal obligation for all citizens of voting age. In fact, some of these governments even “enforce” the law, with penalties and fines in place for non-voters.
In an overwhelming majority of these countries, the legal threats are very rarely followed up. The fines tend to be paltry amounts too, with Australia charging AUS$20 to citizens who avoid the voting stations on election day.
It’s worth noting we are counting countries with a democratic system only. So the likes of North Korea – where people are obliged to register a vote despite only one candidate appearing on the ballot paper – are omitted.
Where compulsory voting is enforced
So, where might you get yourself in trouble for keeping your political views to yourself? These 11 countries are the most strict when it comes to getting their people to the polls:
- Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Ecuador, Luxembourg, Liechtenstein, Nauru, Peru, Singapore, Uruguay.
Where voting is compulsory, but not enforced
Meanwhile, a further 16 countries have adopted the law, but they do not actively seek any punishment for non-voters. Despite the government’s advice, you could stay home on election day and fear no ramifications:
- Bolivia, Bulgaria, Costa Rica, Democratic Republic of Congo, Dominican Republic, Egypt, Gabon, Greece, Honduras, Lebanon, Libya, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Thailand, Turkey.
Countries that have dropped the law
That number could be much higher, but 12 countries have since repealed the requirement after drafting it into law:
Compulsory voting countries – map and legend:
Red – Compulsory voting enforced.
Orange – Compulsory voting encouraged, but not enforced.
Green – Compulsory voting abolished.