The age at which a citizen of a country may cast their vote differs around the world. Before World War II, most countries set the minimum voting age at 21 years old. In 1946, Czechoslovakia became the first country to lower their minimum voting age to 20, and over twenty years later 17 countries too lowered their voting age. By the end of the 1900s, 18 had become the most common voting age, and it remains the same today. However, that doesn’t mean every country around the world subscribes to the same age. In fact, the minimum voting age around the world ranges from 16 to 25 years old. In some countries, citizens of eligible age are required by law to vote. However, for most countries, voting is optional. As you will see, there are many different minimum ages when it comes to voting.
View Voting Age in a full screen map
Click around on the map above to discover for yourself the voting ages of over 235 countries, or read on to see what fascinating tidbits of information we’ve selected from the voting ages of countries around the world.
A glaring 86% of the 237 countries on our list have a minimum voting age requirement of 18 years old. However, the 205 countries that require their citizens to be at least 18 years old to vote are not all homogenous when it comes to exceptions to the rule and histories. Take Bosnia and Herzegovina, for example. The country has an 18-year-old voting age requirement, however, an exception to the rule is that 16-year-olds who are employed may also vote.
The legislative body of Iran can’t seem to make up its mind when it comes to Iran’s voting age. While currently Iran’s voting age coincides with the majority of the world’s countries, before 2007, Iran’s minimum voting age was just 15 years old. It was changed to 18 years of age in 2007 and then changed back to 15 years old in 2009 after just two years. In 2011, Iran’s voting age returned to 18 years old.
Japan has also experimented with changing its voting age as recently as 2016. Japan changed its minimum voting age from 20 years old to 18 years old.
The history of why 18 is the most common voting age lies in its connection to military enlistment. For most countries, 18 years old is the age when a citizen may enlist in the military. Logically, those who may be drafted or volunteer to fight for their country desire to cast their vote come election season.
Some countries disagree with allowing police and military members the right to vote. The Dominican Republic bars all members of its police and military forces from partaking in elections. The Dominican Republic is not the only country to do so, at least in the past. Peru used to ban all police and military members from voting in elections, however, a 2005 constitutional reform removed this law and now police and military members may vote.
The countries of Oman, Kuwait, and Indonesia have yet to express interest in allowing their police and military forces to vote. Guatemala also prohibits active duty members of the armed forces from voting, and those members are even restricted to their barracks on election day.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, in North Korea, members of the military may vote regardless of age.
The youngest minimum voting age is 16 years old. Eleven countries lay claim to this young national voting age or just 5% of all of the countries on our list.
These countries include:
- Isle of Man
- In Argentina, voting between the ages 16 to 18 is optional, but becomes compulsory after 18 years old.
Voting may be optional for those aged 16 through 18 in Argentina, but once you hit 19, voting becomes mandatory. Argentina is not the only country in which voting is compulsory, meaning that eligible citizens are required by law to vote in national and or local elections. The following countries also mandate that their citizens vote:
- Dominican Republic
While the above-listed countries may all be similar in that voting is compulsory, they are not exactly all the same. What differentiates the countries from each other is the different age ranges for which voting is compulsory. For example, in Brazil and Peru, all citizens from the age of 18 through age 70 must vote. In Luxembourg and Paraguay, citizens 18 years old or older must vote until they reach the age of 75 years old. Ecuador has the youngest age at which voting stops being compulsory at 65 years young.
In addition to compulsory voting, the Dominican Republic boasts a fascinating voting obligation: all married people regardless of age are required to vote. The same rule applies in Indonesia.
In some countries which require their citizens to vote, voting is optional for citizens who are illiterate. These countries include Brazil and Ecuador. However, the literacy rates in Brazil and Ecuador, over 92%, and over 94% respectively, don’t imply this is much of an issue.
Finally, the oldest minimum voting age is 25 years old. The only country to implement this is the United Arab Emirates. The UAE elects its officials with a 6,689-member electoral college. The electoral college members are appointed by the emirates and are required to be citizens of the emirate they are to cast their vote on behalf of and must be 25 years old or older, depending on the emirate. They must also be literate.
Is your country’s voting age the same as 86% of other countries at 18 years old or does your country share a voting age with less than 1% of the world with a voting age of 19 or 25? Whatever your country’s minimum voting age is, you can make your own map like the one above at batchgeo.com today.