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5 Incredible Things You Didn’t Know About Voting Around the World

Teens as young as 16 were among the nearly 4 million Scots who voted in this week’s Scottish independence referendum.
Sep 20, 2014· 2 MIN READ
Kristina Bravo is Assistant Editor at TakePart.

Two years ago, Scotland lowered its voting age from 18 to 16. The young voters’ first ballot? A once-in-a-lifetime referendum that would decide whether the country would be independent.

On Thursday, the people of Scotland voted to remain part of the United Kingdom. The referendum yielded an 84.6 percent participation rate, the highest of any election held in the U.K. It beat the previous record of 83.9 percent in the 1950 general election. Among those who cast their ballots were voters still in high school.

Though the referendum was defeated, First Minister Alex Salmond, who led the campaign for independence, praised the voter turnout among 16- and 17-year-olds.

“This has been a triumph for the democratic process and for participation in politics,” he said in his concession speech. “For example, the initiative by which our 16- and 17-year-olds were able to vote has proved to be a resounding success. I suspect no one will ever again dispute their right and ability to participate fully and responsibly in democratic elections.”

Scotland wasn’t the first to grant minors the right to vote. Find out which countries have the youngest voters and four other things you might not know about voting around the world.

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1. Youngest Voters

Austria, Brazil, Cuba, Ecuador, and Nicaragua allow citizens as young as 16 to vote. Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, and Slovenia let 16- to 18-year-olds cast ballots as well—but only if they’re employed. According to Guinness World Records, the only capped voting age is in the Holy See, the Catholic Church’s ecclesiastical jurisdiction in Rome. Cardinals older than 80 aren’t eligible to help elect a new pope.

2. Highest Presidential Voter Turnout

Rwanda had a 97.51 percent voter participation rate in its 2010 presidential election, according to the latest data from the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance. That’s the highest among the listed countries where voting isn’t mandatory. The U.S. only had a 53.57 percent voter turnout rate in its 2012 presidential election.

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3. First Country That Allowed Women to Vote

As the result of a petition signed by 30,000 women older than 21, New Zealand was the first country, in 1893, to grant women the right to vote. The next country to do so was Finland, in 1906.

4. In One U.S. State, Voting Was Once Mandatory

Georgia’s 1777 constitution made casting the ballot compulsory among eligible voters (i.e., white male residents 21 or older). Those who didn’t participate were subject to a fine, if they didn’t have “a reasonable excuse.” The U.S. isn’t likely to follow in the footsteps of the 32 countries—including Belgium and Australia—where voting is required, but it needs to make an effort to increase its low voting turnout rate. In 2012, more than 50 countries had higher participation than the U.S. in their most recent elections.

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5. Slot Machines

Stealing an election is easier than rigging a Las Vegas slot machine, Steve Freeman, a University of Pennsylvania professor and author of Was the 2004 Presidential Election Stolen?, told The Washington Post. Nevada has access to the software used in all of the slots in Las Vegas. Software used in electronic voting machines, however, is “a trade secret.”