Vote-by-Mail & Election Day Registration Bills Signed into Law~ What’s all the hype about?

Posted on 07-27-2022

Bills to allow citizens to register to vote on Election Day and cast ballots by mail were signed into law by Gov. John Carney. The House of Representatives and State Senate delivered the controversial bills to the governor’s desk earlier this week. Both measures cleared the legislature on contested votes largely along partisan lines.

Election Day Registration

House Substitute 1 for House Bill 25 will allow Election Day registration in Delaware. Prior to the bill’s enactment, the deadline for registration was about 10 days before the election (the fourth Saturday prior to the election date.) Supporters of the bill, predominately House and Senate Democrats, claim the measure was needed because citizens were being turned away at polling places due to lack of prior registration. Opponents maintained the previous short gap between the close of voter registration and Election Day was needed to give state officials time to establish that the names on the voter list were valid and eligible to participate. Speaking about the bill at a House Administration Committee earlier this year, State Rep. Tim Dukes (R-Laurel) said Election Day registration could overburden already short-staffed poll workers and lengthen waiting times, forcing some citizens to leave before they are able to vote. Rep. Dukes added that allowing citizens registering on Election Day to validate their identities using a bank statement or utility bill potentially undermines the integrity of the voting process.

Vote by Mail
Senate Bill 320 (as amended) allows any registered voter to request a mail-in ballot from the Department of Elections. The ballots can either be requested through a written application or done online through the state’s iVote system.  Voters will 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. The dispute over the bill mainly revolves around its constitutionality.  Opponents claim the state constitution specifically bars mail-in voting, except for limited absentee voting. Proponents claim another provision of the state constitution gives the General Assembly broad authority to change voting laws by simple statute. The legislation is expected to be quickly challenged in court. If it is upheld, depending on when the decision is made, citizens could potentially use the new vote-by-mail option in this year’s primary and general elections.