What's really democratic? Not HR 1
Unless you have spent the last year in the jungles of Borneo, you are undoubtedly aware of the Democrats' constant attacks on states that have attempted to tighten their rules on voter identification and mail-in ballots. Famously, in probably the most ridiculous fevered hyperbole, insulting to actual victims of Jim Crow laws, President Biden denounced Georgia's modest efforts to enhance voting security as "Jim Crow 2.0." But are demands for voter photo IDs and restrictions on mail-in ballots anti-democratic efforts at voter suppression? Who is really anti-democratic on these issues? Economist John R. Lott helpfully provides the data.
Take a look at Europe, which has forty-seven countries, all of which hold elections. As of this date, according to Lott, forty-six of the forty-seven require photo IDs in order to vote, and the forty-seventh is about to do so, too. Lott adds that Canada, which is surely a democracy, also requires photo IDs, and that Mexico, in an effort to combat voter fraud, now requires a biometric ID to vote, one with a photo and a thumbprint. (He notes that voter turnout in Mexico substantially increased after this reform, suggesting that strengthening election integrity makes voters more confident that their votes will count.)
So relative to both Europe and North America, the United States that Democrats want to see will be the odd country out, with less election integrity with respect to voter identification than every other country. Moreover, close to eighty percent of Americans also favor tight voter identification rules. So the states that are heading in that direction, not the Democrats opposing them, are the ones in step with other democracies and with the American public.
What about H.R. 1's requirement of universal mail-in balloting? How does that compare with the practices in other democracies? Again, according to Lott, not well. Thirty-five of the forty-seven European countries do not even allow absentee voting for citizens who are not out of the country. Ten other countries allow absentee voting but require voters to pick up their ballots in person and with a photo ID. And France has banned absentee voting altogether, as has Mexico. It goes without saying that countries this strict about absentee voting would never support universal mail-in balloting.
Lott recounts that in 2005, a blue-ribbon bipartisan commission headed by former president Jimmy Carter, a Democrat, and former secretary of state James Baker, a Republican, proposed requiring a photo ID to vote in U.S. elections. It also condemned as susceptible to voter fraud widespread absentee balloting. And it surely would have doubly condemned mailing ballots to people who had not requested them, a prominent feature of H.R.1. But Democrats now believe that loosening voting requirements will benefit them, so they want to make such loosening universal and permanent. But in doing that they will be undermining election integrity and will be making the U.S. an outlier in that regard, with less election integrity than every European and North American democracy.
As the U.S. expanded the franchise, first to the propertyless, then in the Fifteenth Amendment to blacks, in the Nineteenth Amendment to women, and in the Twenty-Sixth to those eighteen years of age, it became more and more democratic. At the same time, it gradually made voting less subject to fraud and manipulation, moving to secret ballots in the late nineteenth century and adopting rules to ensure that only eligible voters voted, and voted only once. H.R. 1 seeks to eliminate these methods for protecting election integrity, methods that prevail in Europe and the rest of North America. Despite how the Democrats advertise it, H.R. 1 is a profoundly regressive and anti-democratic bill.
Image: Thomas Nast.