Voting Around the World

By Tracy Schorn

September 26, 2016

Did you know in 1927, Chicago politician William Hale Thompson held a debate with caged rats? He was re-elected in a landslide having previously been ousted for corruption. With the U.S. elections around the corner, let's travel around the world and check out other interesting voting facts and laws in the books. 

Texas, United States

Kinky Friedman, illustration by Tracy Schorn

In 2006, musician Kinky Friedman led a campaign to be governor of Texas with the slogan "How Hard Can It Be?" He received 12.6 percent of the Democratic primary vote.

United States

Martin Van Buren was the first natural-born American to become president in 1837. The previous seven presidents were born British subjects.

In 1964, the 24th Amendment abolished the use of the poll tax (or any other tax) as a pre-condition for voting in federal elections, but made no mention of poll taxes in state elections.

Outer Space

Since 1997, in Texas, you can vote from space. American astronauts currently in space can cast their ballots in federal elections electronically from orbit. Nearly all astronauts live near the Johnson Spaceflight Center in Houston.

The first space vote cast was by American astronaut David Wolf in 1997, while aboard the Russian Mir station.


Voting is compulsory in Australia for federal, state, and territory elections. Those who don't vote are fined.


The last King of Bhutan was so popular that his people protested when he called for elections in 2011.


Canada allows citizens who haven't registered to do so when they get to the polls on Election Day, rather than barring them from participating.


In 1967 the mayoral election of Picoaza, Ecuador was won by a brand of anti-chafing foot powder. The foot powder was a write-in candidate.


Since 2005, Estonians can cast their ballots online.


Viking, illustration by Tracy Schorn

Iceland's parliament, the Althing, is one of the oldest in the world, started in 930 AD by the Vikings.  

Sweden and France

In Sweden and France, citizens are automatically registered to vote, removing a major hurdle in the electoral process. France automatically registers citizens when they turn 18. Sweden and other Scandinavian countries use tax registration rolls to produce voter lists.

New Zealand

New Zealand in 1893 was the first modern country to grant women the right to vote.

South Africa

South Africa did not hold elections in which citizens of all races could vote until April 1994. The election was conducted under the Independent Electoral Commission and marked the end of a four-year process that ended apartheid. Millions lined up to cast their ballots over a three-day voting period.


bulldog, illustration by Tracy SchornIn the UK, dogs may accompany voters to the polling station, so long as they're on a leash and do not "disrupt."

More Quirky Voting Facts

The wealthiest countries tend to be democracies: outside the petro-states, the top 25 richest countries in the world (as ranked by the World Bank) are also established democracies. (Source: UNDP)

There are only five countries that have never held elections: China, Eritrea, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and UAE