House Agenda for Tuesday
A bill to allow voting by mail is expected to be debated in the House of Representatives on Tuesday.
The legislation, which already cleared the Senate, was released from two House committees this week. All of the voting was split along partisan lines.
Senate Bill 320 (as amended) would allow any eligible voter to request a mail-in ballot from the Department of Elections. The ballots could either be requested through a written application or done online through the state’s iVote system. Voters would be required to provide their state-issued driver’s license number, state-issued nondriver identification card number, or the last 4 digits of their Social Security number on the ballot application and on the ballot envelope.
Sen. Kyle Evans Gay (D-Talleyville), one of the co-sponsors of the bill, told the House Administration Committee on Wednesday that the measure would “encourage more people to participate…without compromising the safety and security of our elections.”
However, critics note the proposal is potentially at odds with Delaware’s state constitution. Citing Article V, Section 4A, they say that voting by mail is allowed solely under the absentee ballot process and can only be used when voters are “unable to appear…at the regular polling place of the election district” where they are registered.
The constitution contains a short list of valid reasons a citizen can cite for being unable to appear at their polling place:
- state or federal public service;
- immediate family members accompanying someone performing an occupation removing them from the area;
- sickness or physical disability;
- vacation; or
- the tenets of his or her religion.
The sponsors of the bill, which consists of 35 of the General Assembly’s 40 Democratic lawmakers, maintain the state constitution gives them the authority to impose a vote by mail system. The authors cite Article V, Section 1, which states that “the General Assembly may by law prescribe the means, methods, and instruments of voting.”
Seemingly undercutting this contention was an earlier failed effort by House and Senate Democrats to eliminate the absentee voting language from the state constitution (House Bill 75).
Voting by mail was allowed during the 2020 primary and general elections due to the COVID-19 health emergency and under the state legislature’s constitutional authority to ensure the continuity of governmental operations.
If enacted, the law is expected to be challenged in court.