A new report highlights the restrictive laws most European countries and other developed areas throughout the world have in regards to mail-in voting, contrasting highly permissive U.S. regulations, as the debate over the security of the practice ramps up ahead of the presidential election.
The report, commissioned by the conservative Crime Prevention Research Center and released Monday, examines voting laws in countries in the European Union (EU), non-EU states in Europe and members of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) -- an international body consisting largely of developed and free countries throughout Europe, North America, Asia and South America.
The report's analysis of these countries' voting laws, specifically on how restrictive their rules are on mail-in ballots, leads the study to conclude that the permissiveness of American laws toward widespread mail-in voting is rather unique in the developed world. It comes as most states in the U.S. have made some changes to loosen their absentee ballot rules, but Republicans in many cases are fighting back in the courts, arguing that such changes open up elections to potential fraud.
"If concern about vote fraud with mail-in ballots is delusional, it is a delusion shared by most of the world," John Lott, the report's author, writes.
Among OECD countries besides the United States, the report states that 78% of the countries either do not allow mail-in ballots "for people living in the country" or require a photo ID to get a mail-in ballot. In the EU, 85% of countries either bar mail-in ballots for people not living abroad or require a photo ID for such a ballot, according to the report. And every European country that is not a member of the EU has mail-in policies that fall into that category.
The report cites a number of cases of mail-in fraud that have happened in other countries that it says motivated these changes.
France, a country that does not allow mail-voting except for citizens living abroad, banned general mail voting in 1975 after a spate of fraud, the report says. The U.K., which has somewhat more permissive rules, saw six Labour Party members of the Birmingham City Council found guilty of vote fraud in 2005, according to The Telegraph.
Many, however, have argued that vote fraud by mail in the United States is exceedingly rare and that Americans should trust that an election conducted largely by mail will be secure and fair.
"Over the past 20 years, about 250 million votes have been cast by a mail ballot nationally," Amber McReynolds, CEO of the National Vote at Home Institute, and Charles Steward III, director of the MIT Election Data and Science Lab, wrote in a recent op-ed for The Hill.
They continue: "One hundred forty-three cases of fraud using mailed ballots over the course of 20 years comes out to seven to eight cases per year, nationally. It also means that across the 50 states, there has been an average of three cases per state over the 20-year span. That is just one case per state every six or seven years. We are talking about an occurrence that translates to about 0.00006 percent of total votes cast."
Wendy R. Weiser and Harold Ekeh of the Brennan Center for Justice note that 31 million Americans voted by mail in 2018.
"Mail ballot fraud is incredibly rare, and legitimate security concerns can be easily addressed," they said. "While mail ballots are more susceptible to fraud than in-person voting, it is still more likely for an American to be struck by lightning than to commit mail voting fraud."
But this year's presidential election is likely to see 125 million or more total ballots cast, based on numbers from past years. With universal mail-in voting some states are implementing, that could mean tens of millions more mail ballots being cast in just a couple months, testing the American postal ballot system on a much larger scale than it has been before.
President Trump issued a warning on that issue in an "Axios on HBO" interview that aired Monday night.
"You know, you could have a case where this election won't be decided on the evening of Nov. 3," Trump said. "This election could be decided two months later."