According to International IDEA, “voter turnout has been declining across the globe since the beginning of 1990, and such trend has raised many concerns among election stakeholders.”

Latin America, however, is bringing some hope during the 2018 election cycle.

So far, turnout rates have increased in Chile, Colombia, and Mexico. Regrettably, this trend does not hold true for Costa Rica, Paraguay and Venezuela. The Brazilian General Elections scheduled for October will have the final say.


Latin America’s second-largest economy held the largest election in its history last July. A high voter turnout of 63.43% (registered voters) made the new president the most voted Mexican candidate ever (30.1 million).

  • More than 89 million Mexicans were eligible to vote. 56,611,027 votes were cast.
  • More than 18,299 positions changed hands at the federal, state and local levels.
  • A new president was elected. 128 senators and 500 members of the lower house were elected for Congress.
  • Young voters made up nearly half the registered electorate (e.g. 20 to 24 years old totalled 11 million).


With 53% turnout, the Colombian elections saw the highest first-round participation rate in four decades, a level that held for the second round. Such level of participation, in a country with no compulsory voting and one of the lowest turnout rates in the region, was well-received. The presidential poll received 19,636,714 votes out of 36,783,940 registered voters. The parliamentary elections, on the other hand, had a slightly lower turnout of 49%.


Voter turnout (49%) rebounded slightly in Chile during last year’s presidential election (2017). Turnout plunged in Chile after the country changed from compulsory to optional voting and instituted automatic registration in 2012. Before, voting registration hovered around 70%. The turnout rate halved after shifting the law. For instance, turnout in the presidential race in 2013 dropped to 42%, as opposed to 87% in 2010 with compulsory voting still in place.

Bringing up the rear

Even though 12 out of 27 countries in the world with compulsory voting are in Latin America, the impact of such constant should be further studied. Brazil, Costa Rica, Mexico, and Paraguay all have mandatory voting. However, in the case of Costa Rica and Paraguay, the declining turnout rates in 2018 show that this might not be a defining issue. One important note, however, is that, from the countries mentioned above, only Brazil enforces compulsory voting. The Brazilian October elections will be a test for voter turnout performance.

Paraguay with 61,40% turnout in its April elections, and Venezuela with 46% turnout rate in a contested vote, are last in participation.

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