Democracy in all its forms has been celebrated since it became a core principle of Greek society over 2,000 years ago. Today, whether or not citizens are granted the right to choose their leader or representative is one of the main litmus tests for fair governance.
While voting may not always mean a democratic process, from China, with a population of more than 1.4 billion people, to tiny Montserrat, which numbers 5,215 residents, virtually every nation on Earth votes. It is a right millions have died for, and the very act of voting in many parts of the world is itself an act of bravery. Few images were more inspiring than those of voters in war-torn Iraq holding up their purple-tinged thumbs to indicate that they had cast a ballot.
To track down the largest voting contests in the world, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed total votes cast in elections and referendums around the world since as early as 1945. Because China and India are the world’s most populous countries, those nations’ elections over many years would by default dominate a significant portion of the largest elections of all time. Population and voting age totals are from the year of the election.
To provide a broader perspective on voting contests worldwide, we considered each country only once. Included on our list are the biggest turnouts for presidential and parliamentary elections, as well as for referendums such as the Brexit vote in the United Kingdom two years ago, by country.