PRESS RELEASE: Monday, November 8, 2021
CONTACT: Morgan Kelly, Communications Director, ACLU-DE, email@example.com
Delaware Voting Rights Coalition Renews the Conversation Around Vote By Mail Ahead of 2021 Legislative Session
WILMINGTON—2022 is a big election year in Delaware, but it could also be an historic one: next year might be the year that casting a ballot by mail becomes a permanent reality for voters in the state. That’s what voting rights advocates are gearing up to fight for when the 151st General Assembly returns to session in January.
In a virtual event today, hosted by the Delaware Voting Rights Coalition, advocates and lawmakers discussed the possibility of voting by mail in 2022. The event featured Department of Elections Commissioner Anthony Albence, Senators Marie Pinkney and Kyle Evans Gay, Representatives Sherry Dorsey Walker and David Bentz, and remarks by Congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester. Those elected officials were joined by Claire Snyder-Hall of Common Cause Delaware, and Evelyn Brady of Network Delaware.
Advocates say that voting by mail is a safe and secure method of voting that all Delawareans should have the choice to use, whether they are absent for a constitutionally authorized reason or just because they prefer to cast their ballot from the comfort of their own home. Ballots are delivered securely through USPS, and Delaware’s tracking system ensures accuracy between all methods of voting.
Claire Snyder-Hall, executive director of Common Cause Delaware, said “Delaware has a sophisticated electronic system that tracks ballots across all methods of voting and safeguards our democracy by making sure only one ballot is counted per registered voter. There has been a lot of inflammatory rhetoric at the national level, but Delawareans can have confidence in our state’s system. It is structured with redundancies and fail-safes to prevent problems, detect any issues, and protect the election results.”
During last year’s legislative session, the Delaware Voting Rights Coalition fought for the General Assembly to pass House Bill 75, the constitutional amendment that would allow no-excuse absentee voting. During the event, Representative David Bentz, the primary sponsor of HB 75, talked about the importance of renewing that fight in addition to seeking permanent vote by mail legislation.
"We, as a state government, should be making it as easy and convenient as possible for our constituents and the residents of our state to vote,” said Representative Bentz. “Allowing for no-excuse absentee voting gives Delawareans the ability to plan for the unexpected. We've had an absentee voting system in this state for a long time. We know it is safe, we know it is secure, we know it is reliable, and this would simply expand access to that system of voting for many more Delawareans."
Advocates and lawmakers plan to pursue permanent vote by mail legislation whether or not HB 75 passes, citing the constitution’s directive that the General Assembly is empowered to “prescribe the means, methods, and instruments of voting.”
Evelyn Brady, an activist with Network Delaware, notes that without a permanent vote by mail option, thousands of Delawareans won’t be able to vote the way they did just one year ago, in the 2020 elections. “The vast majority of the more than 130,000 Delawareans who voted by mail in 2020 won’t be eligible to vote by mail in 2022, unless we pass a permanent vote by mail bill, and join 34 other states in expanding access to the ballot.”
Senator Kyle Evans Gay believes the legislature owes it to voters to bring permanent vote by mail to Delaware. “Democracy works best when we make it as easy as possible for people to participate in the electoral process,” said Senator Gay. “During the pandemic, voters saw how convenient, simple, safe and secure vote-by-mail can be. I look forward to working with legal experts and our Department of Elections to ensure that Delaware voters have access to the same vote by mail options in future elections that they did in 2020.”
The Delaware Voting Rights Coalition is Delaware's first statewide coalition of voting rights organizations and advocates who are working to encourage voters and policy makers to consider reforms that will improve access to voting. The group empowers communities, especially communities of color, people who speak English as a second language, people involved in the legal system, and young people, to identify and remedy barriers to the ballot box.
A recording of the event can be found online here.