This commentary, contributed by Dr. David Paul Redlawsk, Dr. Kimeu W. Boynton, and Dr. Thomas M. Powers, was originally published in Delaware Online on Friday, October 21, 2022 and Bay to Bay News on Sunday, October 23, 2022.
Against the backdrop of a nationwide attack on voting rights, Delaware’s 2022 legislative session told a different story. Voting rights advocates celebrated historic wins as the Delaware General Assembly successfully passed vote-by-mail and same-day registration, both of which were signed by Governor Carney — but almost as quickly as those bills were passed and signed, they were overturned by our Courts, leaving voters in Delaware confused, and with less options to vote than they had just two months ago in the Primary Election.
Given these last-minute changes, it’s important that all voters, especially new voters like college students, know how, where, and when they can vote as the November 8 General Election approaches.
What do all of these changes mean? Is mail-in voting banned? Can voters still cast their ballots early? Are there changes in polling locations? We believe that it’s important to get the answers to some of the most pressing questions out there in these last few weeks before the General Election, so we’re teaming up to provide some answers.
The biggest updates are that permanent vote-by-mail for all Delaware voters and same day registration are no longer available.
The vote-by-mail update means that the only way to cast a mail ballot in Delaware is through absentee voting, which applies to voters who meet several qualifying circumstances. This option for mail-in voting is still applicable to many college students who are registered to vote in Delaware, but traveling out of state, for example. More information about voting absentee is available in the Delaware Voting Rights Coalition’s voter guide, available online at VoteDelaware.org/dvrc-voter-guide.
The Delaware Supreme Court’s overturning of same day registration, means that voters in Delaware no longer have the option to register at their polling place during early voting or on Election Day. The registration deadline, which was Saturday, October 15, passed just over one week after the ruling was announced — a devastating blow to any voters who were not able to register in time given such little notice.
Early in-person voting, which went into effect in January of this year after passing the General Assembly in 2019, is still in place for Delaware voters. Early voting allows Delawareans who may find it difficult to make it to the polls on Election Day an additional 10 days to cast their ballots during the early voting period. This year, early voting for the General Election begins on Friday, October 28, and ends on Sunday November 6. Early voting locations and poll hours differ from those on Election Day. Voters can find their early voting polling place by visiting ivote.de.gov and find more information about early voting on the Department of Elections website.
No voice should go unheard because someone who wants to vote missed an arbitrary deadline or struggled to make it to the polls on Election Day, but we can not let these challenges stand in the way of a successful General Election in 2022. Delaware’s collegiate community strongly encourage all voters – especially college students – to cast their ballot via absentee, early voting, or in-person on Election Day, and if you’d like to see expanded access to the ballot return to Delaware for future elections, then we encourage you to learn where your candidates stand on vote by mail and same day registration, too.
David Redlawsk is the James R. Soles Professor and Chair of the Department of Political Science and International Relations at the University of Delaware.
Kimeu W. Boynton is an Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice and Interim Assistant Dean of the College of Humanities, Education, and Social Sciences at Delaware State University.
Thomas M. Powers is the founding director of the Center for Science, Ethics & Public Policy and Associate Professor in Philosophy and in the Biden School of Public Policy & Administration at the University of Delaware.