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Wednesday, January 19, 2022

OPINION:

President Biden’s extreme rhetoric in his Georgia speech last week on voting rights keeps generating attention. Much of the focus is on him comparing people who support voter IDs or oppose permanent mail-in ballots for all as siding with George Wallace, Bull Connor and Jefferson Davis. But what people ignore is that if Mr. Biden and other Democrats believe their rhetoric, there are no democratic countries in Europe or the rest of the developed world.

Mr. Biden scolded Georgia for requiring that absentee voters write the last four digits of their Social Security number on their ballots. Of course, all Americans and many noncitizens have Social Security numbers. Still, Mr. Biden called this voter ID rule “undemocratic” and that it supposedly proved Republicans believe “democracy is a problem.” He compared Republicans to rulers in “totalitarian states, not democracies.” The enemies are not just Republicans but even Democrats who oppose getting rid of the filibuster. On Monday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi repeated those claims saying “nothing less is at stake than our democracy.”


The U.S. is already an outlier among the world’s democracies, lacking vote fraud safeguards. In research done by the Crime Prevention Research Center, we found that of the 47 countries in Europe today, 46 of them currently require government-issued photo IDs to vote. The odd man out is the United Kingdom, in which Northern Ireland and many localities already require voter IDs, but the requirement is not nationwide. The British Parliament, however, is quickly moving to a nationwide requirement, so very soon, all 47 European countries will likely have adopted this policy.

For absentee voting, 35 of the 47 European countries — including France, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden — completely ban absentee voting for citizens living in the country. Another 10 European countries allow absentee voting, including England, Ireland, Denmark, Portugal and Spain. Still, they require voters to show up in person and present a photo ID to pick up their ballots. It isn’t like in the U.S., where a person can say they will be out of town and have a ballot mailed to them.

England used to have absentee voting rules similar to ours. But in 2004, in the city of Birmingham, officials uncovered a massive vote fraud scheme in the city council races. The six winning Labor candidates had fraudulently acquired about 40,000 absentee votes, mainly from Muslim areas of the city. As a result, England started requiring voters to pick up their ballots in person with a photo ID.

Up until 1975, France also had loose absentee voting rules. But after discovering massive vote fraud on the island of Corsica — with hundreds of thousands of votes by dead people and even larger-scale vote-buying operations — France banned absentee voting altogether.

How about our neighbors Canada and Mexico? Canada requires a photo ID to vote. If a voter shows up at the polls without an ID, he is allowed to vote only if he declares who he is in writing and someone is working at the polling station who can personally verify his identity. 

In 1992, Mexico instituted strict reforms, partly because its leaders were concerned about a drop in foreign investment if it wasn’t perceived to be a legitimate democracy. Voters must present a biometric ID — an ID with a photo and a thumbprint. Voters also have indelible ink applied to their thumbs, preventing them from voting more than once. And they completely prohibited absentee voting. 

Those who oppose election integrity reform here in the U.S. often condemn it as “voter suppression.” But in Mexico, the percent of people voting rose from 59% during the three presidential elections before the reforms to 68% after. It turned out that Mexicans were more, not less, likely to vote when they had confidence that their votes mattered.

The Washington Post defends the current voting rules by pointing out some European countries allow “proxy voting,” whereby one person can designate another to vote for him in place of absentee voting. And while it is true that eight of the 47 European countries allow proxy voting — meaning that 39 do not — there are strict requirements.

In Poland, it also requires the approval of the local mayor, and in Monaco, the approval of the general secretariat. In France and the Netherlands, a notary public proxy must witness the approval process. In five of the eight countries — Belgium, England, Monaco, Poland and Sweden — proxy voting is limited to those who certify that they have a disability or illness, or who are out of the country. Switzerland is the only country in Europe with a relatively liberal proxy voting policy, requiring only a signature match.

If banning voter IDs and automatically mailing everyone mail-in ballots are the hallmarks of democracy, will Mr. Biden start castigating Canada, France, Sweden, the United Kingdom and others as anti-democratic, totalitarian countries?

• John Lott is the chief data analyst, Election Integrity Division, America First Policy Institute, and president of the Crime Prevention Research Center. 


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