by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Democrats and much of the media are pushing to make permanent the extraordinary, pandemic-driven measures to relax voting rules during the 2020 elections – warning anew of racist voter “suppression” otherwise. Yet democracies in Europe and elsewhere tell a different story – of the benefits of stricter voter ID requirements after hard lessons learned.
A database on voting rules worldwide compiled by the Crime Prevention Research Center, which I run, shows that election integrity measures are widely accepted globally, and have often been adopted by countries after they’ve experienced fraud under looser voting regimes.
Of 47 nations surveyed in Europe — a place where, on other matters, American progressives often look to with envy — all but one country requires a government-issued photo voter ID to vote. The exception is the U.K., and even there voter IDs are mandatory in Northern Ireland for all elections and in parts of England for local elections. Moreover, Boris Johnson’s government recently introduced legislation to have the rest of the country follow suit.
Criticisms of the British leader’s voter ID push are similar to those heard in the U.S. The Scottish National Party claims his voter ID push targets “lower income, ethnic minority and younger people” who are less likely to vote for Johnson’s conservatives and therefore represents “Trump-like voter suppression.”
Yet despite such pushback, Britain looks set to follow countries in Europe and elsewhere with stricter voting regimes, few of which temporarily relaxed any of their voting rules during the pandemic.
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 for absentee voting.