Law & Principles
Ray Carter | August 13, 2020
Oklahoma’s election-security laws within international norms
This year the Oklahoma Legislature approved, and the governor signed into law, legislation requiring that absentee votes cast during a pandemic include a copy of the voter’s photo ID, and reinstated a requirement for notarization of absentee voting in future elections. The bill was advanced after similar election safeguards were struck down by the Oklahoma Supreme Court based on a technicality.
Groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma and the Oklahoma chapter of the National Education Association, which had supported the lawsuit challenging Oklahoma’s election-security measures, denounced the Legislature’s action.
But a new report shows Oklahoma law is generally in line with, or more lenient than, election laws in most European countries and much of the industrialized world.
That report, “Why Do Most Countries Ban Mail-In Ballots?: They Have Seen Massive Vote Fraud Problems,” was authored by John R. Lott, Jr., president of the Crime Prevention Research Center, and reviewed the election laws in many nations. Lott found most countries significantly restrict mail-in ballots.
“Liberals and progressives often try to model the U.S. on Western European countries in many ways, but you never hear them arguing that we should adopt their voting rules,” the report states. “There is a reason for that. Banning mail-in voting or requiring people to use photo IDs to obtain a mail-in ballot is quite common in developed countries, especially in Europe.”
The report found that 47 percent of the other 36 member states in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) ban mail-in voting unless a citizen is living abroad, and 30 percent require a photo-ID to obtain a mail-in ballot. Fourteen percent of surveyed countries ban voting even for those living abroad.
Lott noted that Japan and Poland limit mail-in voting to those who have been officially declared disabled.
Among the 27 countries in the European Union (EU), Lott found that 63 percent ban mail-in voting unless a citizen is living abroad and another 22 percent require a photo-ID to obtain a mail-in ballot. Twenty-two percent ban the practice entirely.
There are sixteen countries in Europe that are not part of the EU “and they are even more restrictive,” Lott writes.
“Every single one bans mail-in voting for those living in the country or require a photo-ID to obtain a mail-in ballot,” Lott wrote. “Sixty-three percent don’t allow mail-in ballots even for citizens living outside of the country.”
He found other countries have restricted absentee voting by mail primarily due to concerns about voter fraud.
“These countries have learned the hard way about what happens when mail-in ballots aren’t secured,” the report states. “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 after fraud in Corsica that involved the stealing of postal ballots, incidents of voters casting multiple votes, and mail-in ballots cast by dead people.
The United Kingdom, which allows postal voting but recently imposed photo ID requirements, has had significant mail-in ballot fraud cases. In one incident, “widespread theft” of as many as 40,000 postal votes was reported.
Lott noted that Mexico mandated voter photo-IDs and banned absentee ballots starting in 1991 because the “then-governing Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) had long used fraud and intimidation with mail-in ballots to win elections.”
“If concern about vote fraud with mail-in ballots is delusional, it is a delusion that is shared by most of the world,” Lott writes. “Even the countries that allow mail-in ballots have protections, such as government-issued photo-IDs. But Americans are constantly assured even this step is completely unnecessary.”
Lott notes problems with broad mail-in voting have already been identified in the United States. In California, the Election Integrity Project found about 458,000 California registrants who have likely died or moved will be mailed ballots this year. CBS Channel 2 in Los Angeles in 2016 “found 265 dead people who had supposedly voted year-after-year after their deaths using mail-in ballots.” The report also noted that 83 registered voters in San Pedro, Calif., received absentee ballots “at the same small two-bedroom apartment” in 2016.
While Lott’s report shows most countries are very wary of broad mail-in voting, other officials have raised the alarm about potential fraud in the United States if mail-in voting represents a substantial share of ballots cast this November.
In a recent column, J. Christian Adams, an election lawyer who served in the Voting Rights Section at the U.S. Department of Justice, warned that “reality has proven vote by mail to be a disaster.”
He warns a fatal flaw of mail voting is its reliance on the U.S. Postal Service.
“Vote-by-mail proponents want to put the fate of the nation into the hands of the postal service,” Adams wrote. “Yes, that postal service, the organization that regularly delivers your neighbor’s mail to your house.”
In 2018, he noted the postal service delivered 95.6 percent of election mail successfully.
“In the 2016 Presidential race, four percent was more than the margin of victory in ten states representing 124 electoral votes,” Adams wrote. “Good enough for the post office isn’t good enough for the country.”
The potential for fraud has proven more than theoretical across the country, Adams said. In West Virginia, a postman was convicted of altering mail ballots this year. In Wisconsin, an Inspector General Report of the USPS noted tubs of absentee ballots were found at a processing and distribution center after polls closed for an April election, absentee ballots were not delivered to voters who requested them, and 390 ballots mailed by voters did not receive postmarks. In Clark County, Nevada, which is home to Las Vegas, officials sent more than 1.3 million ballots to registered voters; 223,469 ballots bounced back as undeliverable.
Postmaster General Louis DeJoy recently warned officials that there are logistical challenges that must be taken into account if mail voting is broadly utilized.
“If public policy makers choose to utilize the mail as a part of their election system, we will do everything we can to deliver Election Mail in a timely manner consistent with our operational standards,” DeJoy said. “We do ask election officials and voters to be mindful of the time that it takes for us to deliver ballots, whether it is a blank ballot going to a voter or a completed ballot going back to election officials.”
DeJoy warned that the Postal Service “cannot correct the errors of the Election Boards if they fail to deploy processes that take our normal processing and delivery standards into account.”
A Just the News Daily Poll with Scott Rasmussen conducted in April found 62 percent of voters believe having everyone vote by mail is likely to increase voter fraud, while 29 percent disagree. The poll showed that 39 percent of respondents believe an increase in fraud is “very likely” compared to 15 percent who believe increased fraud is “not at all likely.”
Director, Center for Independent Journalism
Ray Carter is the director of OCPA’s Center for Independent Journalism. He has two decades of experience in journalism and communications. He previously served as senior Capitol reporter for The Journal Record, media director for the Oklahoma House of Representatives, and chief editorial writer at The Oklahoman. As a reporter for The Journal Record, Carter received 12 Carl Rogan Awards in four years—including awards for investigative reporting, general news reporting, feature writing, spot news reporting, business reporting, and sports reporting. While at The Oklahoman, he was the recipient of several awards, including first place in the editorial writing category of the Associated Press/Oklahoma News Executives Carl Rogan Memorial News Excellence Competition for an editorial on the history of racism in the Oklahoma legislature.