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I keep hearing in the news Joe Biden received 80 million votes in the recent 2020 US election, more votes than any presidential in US history (and quite possibly more votes for anything in US history). This makes me curious as to who (or what) has the title of receiving the most votes for anything in human history.

Question: Who (or what) has received the most votes for anything in human history?

To count as a vote:

  • Votes are cast only by humans, and
  • One human can only cast one vote.

They don't have to be voting for a person, e.g., they could be voting to name a boat Boaty McBoatface, or a post on Stack Overflow. Biden's 80 million votes is nearly tripled by Indian PM Modi's 229,076,879 votes (approx. 2.97% of the world's population), which is possibly the answer (but maybe I'm not being imaginative enough).

(I'm guessing something along the lines of the Luring Lottery might be the answer if we drop the second condition.)

  • Biden votes actually surpassed even Stalin - in one election 103% voters supported Party line . But in US elections of 2020 in some places turnout was over 120% of the registered voters, including those born in 19th century :P It's Not Who Votes That Counts, It's Who Counts The Votes! – rs.29 Nov 30 '20 at 0:08
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Modi (and other Indian PMs) are not directly elected, so I feel they would not count. People vote for individual members, and the cumulative result of those individual member elections dictates who becomes PM. Modi himself was only elected by around 675,000 voters in Varanasi.

(Technically speaking, the electoral college system means that the US presidential election is also indirect - but in practice, it is treated like a direct election for specific candidates, so I think it's reasonable to call it one for our purposes.)

Depending on how you count it, the answer is either 113 million people in the USSR, 1991, or 85 million people in Indonesia, 2019.

The probable answer in a modern democratic election is the candidates in Indonesian presidential elections. Since 2004, these are a direct vote across the entire country, which I believe makes them the largest direct elections for a single post. Putting them in the context of US presidential votes, these are all the cases I know of with over 70 million direct votes; numbers from WP.

A number of other Indonesian and US elections have had winners and losers in the 60-70m range. Brazilian presidential elections are probably third behind these two, with winners in recent years getting between 50-58m votes. (Edit: as StuartF notes, recent Russian presidential elections are also in this range, with the winner getting 56m votes in 2018 and 52m in 2008.)

Referenda, a vote on a question not a candidate, are a bit more complicated. In March 1991, a referendum was held on the future of the USSR. The results had 113 million people voting in favour of continuing the Union in a reformed structure, but it is not clear to me how free this vote was, which probably affects whether or not you would wish to count it.

After that, the biggest conventional referendum was the 2005 Brazilian referendum on gun ownership, with just over 59 million people voting "no" to prohibition. The second is probably the 2020 constitutional referendum in Russia, which had just under 58m people voting in support.

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    With many of the largest countries holding few or no referendums, it certainly looks like the Brazilian one is the largest, bigger the 57.7m voting Yes in the en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2020_Russian_constitutional_referendum or the 56.4m Putin voters in the en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2018_Russian_presidential_election (his best) – Stuart F Nov 27 '20 at 15:10
  • @StuartF Oh, good catch on Russia, thanks! I'll add them along with Brazil. Not many other places come close. – Andrew Nov 27 '20 at 15:15
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    What about communist elections? don't they vote to confirm the party's choice? The question doesn't require that there be two alternatives.... – Mark C. Wallace Nov 27 '20 at 15:24
  • @MarkC.Wallace China holds elections (which as you say are not exactly a free choice!), but they use an indirect system - the President is appointed by the National People's Congress, whose members are appointed by lower-level bodies, and so on. So they wouldn't count if we're only looking at direct elections. – Andrew Nov 27 '20 at 15:34
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    @MarkC.Wallace Soviet elections were similar ... although, having said that... the 1991 Soviet referendum had 113 million support voters. So depending how we count that, it might well be the largest. I'll add a note. – Andrew Nov 27 '20 at 15:39

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