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Fact Check: Elon Musk Shared List of Countries Where Mail-In Voting Is Banned. Here Are the Facts

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Claim:

In March 2024, internet users shared an image that accurately showed a list of countries where mail-in voting is banned: France, Mexico, Belgium, Sweden, Italy, Ukraine, Russia, Japan, the Middle East and "Latin" countries.

Rating:

Rating: Mixture
Rating: Mixture

What's True:

While most of these countries do not allow for resident citizens to vote by mail …

 

What's False:

… many of them do include this voting method in their mix, in large part to accommodate their citizens abroad. Japan also allows it for its residents, under certain conditions.

 

On March 27, 2024, an X (formerly Twitter) user shared an image with the following text (archived) claiming that a number of countries around the world do not allow voting by mail:

France banned mail-in voting in 1975 — due to fraud

Mexico banned mail-in voting in 1992 — due to fraud

Belgium banned mail-in voting in 2018 — due to fraud.

Sweden does not permit mail-in voting.

Italy does not permit mail-in voting.

Ukraine does not permit mail-in voting.

Russia does not permit mail-in voting.

No middle eastern country permits mail-in voting.

No Latin country permits mail-in voting.

The post had gained 46.5 million views and 22,500 likes and had been reshared nearly 9,000 times as of this writing. One of the people who amplified it was X owner Elon Musk (archived):

Not That Simple

In reality, many of the countries in this list have adopted a mix of voting methods that include mail-in voting, especially important for countries with large diasporas. Therefore, we've rated this claim a mixture of truth and falsehood.

Here's a detailed breakdown:

France: Banned in 1975 because of a few instances of fraud (particularly in Corsica), mail-in voting was partially reintroduced for French people living abroad to elect their representatives in the National Assembly, along with voting by internet. France holds elections on Sundays to make sure the maximum number of people can take part, and it allows voting by proxy.

Mexico: The country banned all types of banned absentee voting methods in 1991 to combat fraud and intimidation by the party that was then in power. In 2006, however, authorities reintroduced them for some voters. While residents cannot vote by mail, all Mexicans abroad can do so, as well as vote online or in person at a Mexican consulate in the U.S., Canada, France or Spain, according to the Instituto Nacional Electoral, the government agency that supervises the organization of elections. Also, for the first time in 2024, the government will allow early voting for people who cannot physically go to the polls.

Belgium: While mail-in voting and voting by internet are not allowed for residents of Belgium, Belgians abroad can mail their ballots. We have found no indication that domestic mail-in votes were ever allowed for government elections. All Belgians can vote by proxy. Beyond this, voting is compulsory from the age of 16 — no-shows risk fines of 40 to 80 euros, and up to 200 euros and a voting ban for repeat offenders.

Sweden: While the nation does not allow mail-in voting for residents, Swedes abroad can use this method. Still, for residents, voting is greatly facilitated by measures including early voting and automatic registration. In most cases, people can even vote early in a locality that isn't their own simply by showing an ID. Sweden also allows voting by proxy. Christian Christensen, a professor at Stockholm University, clarified one of those details in an X post in response to Musk (archived):

Italy: Italians who live abroad can vote by mail. Residents may not. Italy does not allow vote by proxy. If the voter is in a hospital or a care home, these institutions might offer a poll site on the premises.

Ukraine: As of this writing, mail-in and electronic ballots were out of the question because of the enormous security risk from Russia. Since the Russian invasion in February 2022, Ukraine has been under martial law, which canceled two national elections and four local elections. In 1991, when it became independent, Ukraine allowed voting by Ukrainians abroad at polling stations in consulates and embassies. Internally, citizens are able to permanently change their preferred address (which does not have to be their residence) to be assigned a more convenient polling station for both local and national elections. For national elections, they can also ask for a temporary change of address up to five days before the vote (Article 43). For incapacitated people there are mobile ballot boxes election officials take from house to house to make sure all voters can exercise their rights. Hospitals can also set up ballot boxes (Article 30). For all citizens, registration is automatic. Still, experts are discussing changes in voting methods to better serve the estimated 5 million Ukrainians now living abroad and the 6 million internally displaced citizens once the war is over.

Russia: Russia does not allow mail-in voting, either for citizens abroad or for residents. A 2020 change in voting laws relaxed some rules, allowing elections to take place over three days, and for online voting in 27 regions and Crimea, according to The Associated Press. Abroad, Russians can go to embassies and consulates to cast their votes. In the March 2024 election, Russia's government also organized poll sites in the four Ukrainian regions annexed when Russia invaded the country in 2022. It should be noted, however, that external observers largely contested the legitimacy of Russian elections. Theodoros Rousopoulos, the president of the Parliamentary Assembly and Council of Europe, used quotation marks to refer to Russia's 2024 "election" and called for the international community not to recognize Vladimir Putin as the president of the Russian Federation.

Japan: Japanese people abroad can cast their votes by mail, as can Japanese residents under certain conditions, such as having a specific type of disability (mobility impairment, organ disorders or immunity disorders). Residents who know they will not be able to appear on election days — for reasons such as planned trips or medical procedures — may vote early.

Middle East: According to the Democracy Index 2023 report by The Economist's Intelligence Unit, this region "remains firmly at the bottom" of its rankings. The report goes on to mention three countries whose processes may be worth considering:

The region remains an outlier (alongside Eastern Europe) in having no "full democracies" among its constituent states: only one, Israel, is classed as a "flawed democracy". With the exception of Tunisia and Morocco, classified as "hybrid regimes", the rest of the region's 20 countries are ranked as "authoritarian" regimes.

We'll focus on the three countries mentioned above, starting with Israel, which has scored highest (9.58 out of 10, according to the EIU) in electoral process and pluralism:

  • Israel: Citizens abroad may not vote. Registration is automatic. The country also does not allow for domestic mail-in vote. Special polling sites may be set up for those who cannot physically appear at the polls, including for the incarcerated, who are allowed to vote.

  • Morocco: Moroccans abroad cannot vote. Resident Moroccans have to appear at polling stations.

  • Tunisia: While Tunisian citizens can vote abroad, they cannot do so by mail. They must go to polling stations established in embassies and consulates. Resident Tunisians cannot vote by mail either.

"Latin" countries: We worked on the assumption that the maker of this list meant "countries of Latin America." We looked at those that scored highest in electoral process and pluralism in the EIU Democracy Index 2023 report (8 and above), excluding Mexico and French Guiana (a territory that belongs to France):

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