Voting By Mail: How Other Countries Do It

On the podcast this week we discussed John Lott’s statistical analysis of voting anomalies in several key swing states, in which he concluded there were likely around 290,000 fraudulent votes. The difficulty is that the analysis depends on sophisticated regression techniques that are beyond the grasp of most laypeople, and indeed there is a serious critique of Lott’s paper that argues that Lott’s result is largely an artifact of the way Lott handles and classifies the data. I see this problem all the time in a lot of social science statistics that clutter my desk. Unless one is, as I describe Lott, a “level-six statistical regression ninja,” it is hard to judge these advanced techniques, which are far beyond the old two-standard-deviations-on-a-bell-curve that we all learn in Statistics 101.

Leaving that difficulty aside, there is a lot of useful background information in the Lott paper on the experience of mail voting in other democracies, namely, that most other democracies severely restrict it, and/or have strict voting ID requirements—all things that the left here calls “voter suppression.” This is worth taking in and passing along:

Concerns over fraud with absentee ballots is not something limited to Republicans in the United States. Indeed, many European countries have voting rules stricter to prevent fraud than what we have in the United States. For example, 74% entirely ban absentee voting for citizens who live in their country. Another 6% allow it, but have very restrictive rules, such as limiting it to those in the military or are in a hospital, and they require evidence that those conditions are met. Another 15% allow absentee ballots but require that one has to present a photo voter ID to acquire it. Thirty-five percent of European countries completely ban absentee ballots for even those living outside their country. The pattern is similar for developed countries.

Many of these countries have learned the hard way about what happens when mail-in ballots aren’t secured. They have also discovered how hard it is to detect vote buying when both those buying and selling the votes have an incentive to hide the exchange.

France banned mail-in voting in 1975 because of massive fraud in Corsica, where postal ballots were stolen or bought and voters cast multiple votes. Mail-in ballots were used to cast the votes of dead people.

The United Kingdom, which allows postal voting, has had some notable mail-in ballot fraud cases. Prior to recent photo ID requirements, six Labour Party councilors in Birmingham won office after what the judge described as a “massive, systematic and organised” postal voting fraud campaign. The fraud was apparently carried out with the full knowledge and cooperation of the local Labour party. There was “widespread theft” of postal votes (possibly around 40,000 ballots) in areas with large Muslim populations because Labour members were worried that the Iraq war would spur these voters to oppose the incumbent government.

In 1991, Mexico’s 1991 election mandated voter photo-IDs and banned absentee ballots. The then-governing Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) had long used fraud and intimidation with mail-in ballots to win elections. Only in 2006 were absentee ballots again allowed, and then only for those living abroad who requested them at least six months in advance.page3image13312832

Some European countries allow proxy voting, but that is very strictly regulated to minimize fraud. For example, proxy voting requires the verification of photo IDs and signed request forms. In Poland, a power of attorney is necessary to have a proxy vote and then can only be granted by the municipal mayor. In France, you must go in person to the municipality office prior to the elections, provide proof of who you are, provide proof of reason for absence (for example, letter from your employer or medical certificate), and then nominate a proxy. Proxy voting is not only very limited, but it prevents the problem that absentee ballots are unsecured. Proxy voting requires that the proxy vote in-person in a voting booth.

I’ve omitted the footnotes to each of these instances Lott cites, but if you want to chase after them download the whole paper at the link above. Seems to me we ought to be reminding liberals how often they praise European nations as models of good governance, and advocate that we follow their example of election integrity.

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