op-ed

At Townhall.com: If Republican Voting Reforms are ‘Anti-Democratic,’ All of Europe Is ‘Anti-Democratic’

22 Jun , 2021  

Dr. John Lott has a new piece at Townhall about the Democrats push to eliminate voter IDs and force mail-in ballots.

The American media keeps telling us two “facts.” Voter ID laws are “racist,” and election fraud claims are “false and “baseless.” The New York Times labeled state ID and voting laws as showing “the Republican Party’s growing discomfort with democracy” and “dangerously anti-democratic.” The Washington Post described it as an “anti-democratic virus.” But if these characterizations are correct, all of Europe and virtually all other developed countries must be anti-democratic as they have even stricter anti-fraud provisions than any US state.

Democrats are pushing to remove identification requirements for voting, replacing voter ID rules with a swornstatement of self-identification. The new act seeks to make permanent the mail-in ballot voting of the pandemic. The mailing out of blank absentee ballots would become a fixture of American elections. The House already passed the “For the People Act of 2021,” and the Senate takes it up on Tuesday.

To study this, the Crime Prevention Research Center, of which I am the president, created a database on voting rules worldwide.

Take the 47 countries in Europe. Forty-six already require government-issued photo voter IDs to vote. The one exception is the United Kingdom, but Northern Ireland uses voter IDs for all elections and parts of England use them for local elections. And even that is changing. Boris Johnson’s government recently introduced legislation that will make photo voter IDs mandatory for all elections.

Agreement on voter IDs crosses party lines. For example, Margret Thatcher’s Conservative government passed the first voter ID rules for Northern Ireland in 1985, but Tony Blair’s Labour argued that IDs were being forged and in 2002mandated that tamper-resistant government issued photo IDs had to be used.

A similar pattern exists in developed countries around the world. The 37-member Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) is essentially the club for developed countries, and 89% of them (excluding the US) require government-issued photo IDs to vote. Only the UK, Japan, New Zealand, and Australia currently do not. But Japan provides each voter with tickets that bear unique bar codes. If the voter loses the ticket or accidentally brings the ticket for another family member, polling staff will verify the voter’s name and address using a computer with access to the city’s database. The voter may have to present government-issued photo identification. 

New Zealand technically requires an ID with a unique code, but while it will take longer to look up identifying information, it is still possible to vote without the ID. Australia has by far the loosest rules, and while an ID is required to register to vote, in the polling station, they ask voters just three questions: your name, your address, and whether you have voted in a previous election.

Some countries go beyond requiring a government issued photo ID. Colombia and Mexico require a biometric ID to vote. For others drivers’ licenses aren’t enough, and Czech Republic and Russia require passports or military issued IDs. Others also use indelible ink on a person’s hand to prevent repeat voting.

In the US, Democrats are particularly upset about Texas’ proposed rules because they would not allow ballot boxes to be left out unattended.

Georgia’s absentee provisions raised a ruckus despite being much less restrictive than the rest of the world. Anyone who wants an absentee ballot can obtain one; you don’t need a reason, such as being out of town, but you must have an ID to get an absentee ballot. Seventy-four percent of European countries entirely ban absentee voting for citizens who reside domestically. Another 6% limit it to those hospitalized or in the military, and they require third-party verification and a photo voter ID. Another 15% require a photo ID. The pattern is similar for developed countries around the world.

It isn’t as though people in other countries haven’t heard the same arguments about the importance of the ease of voting. Or about how photo ID requirements will, as one professor in the UK explained, supposedly “lead to people not being able to vote.”

But we should learn from countries that have experienced vote fraud. Far from disenfranchising voters, Mexico’s strict anti-fraud rules in 1991 paved the way for a nine percentage point increase in voter participation rates in the next three presidential elections compared to the three before the change. They instituted tamper-resistant photo voter IDs with thumbprints and completely banned absentee ballots and registration by mail. As people gained faith in the electoral process, they became more likely to vote.

Other countries have learned how difficult it is to prove vote fraud by looking at conviction rates. When there are no tamper-resistant photo IDs, fraud is difficult to prove. If hundreds or thousands of people vote at a polling place, how do you verify if someone voted by pretending to be someone else? Criminal convictions tend to occur only when people try voting in the same polling station multiple times instead of visiting multiple stations.

Take a case from the U.K. in 2016. As the Electoral Commission describes it: “Later in the day the same voter attended again and sought to vote again, this time in his own name. Due to certain physical characteristics of the voter (he was very tall and wore distinctive clothing) and the vigilance of the presiding officer he was suspected of having already voted earlier and formally challenged.”

Are all of these countries, socialist and non-socialist alike, Western and Eastern European, developed and undeveloped, acting “without evidence?” These countries have learned the hard way about vote fraud and what happens when mail-in ballots aren’t secured. For example, France banned absentee voting in 1975 because of massive fraud involving hundreds of thousands of votes in Corsica. People there had bought or stolen postal ballots, and voters cast multiple votes. If concern about voter fraud is delusional, it is a delusion shared by most of the world. But Americans are constantly assured that even this step is completely unnecessary. Without basic precautions, our elections are on course to become the laughingstock of the developed world.

John R. Lott, Jr.,”At Townhall.com: If Republican Voting Reforms are ‘Anti-Democratic,’ All of Europe Is ‘Anti-Democratic’,” Townhall.com, June 22, 2021.

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  1. […] in Townhall anti-fraud voting protections in other countries. Take the 47 countries in Europe. Forty-six already require government-issued photo voter IDs to vote. The one exception is the United Kingdom, but Northern Ireland uses voter IDs for all […]

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