ACLU-DE Puts DDOC on Notice: Let Eligible Voters Cast Their Ballots
WILMINGTON, DE—On Monday, September 12, 2022, the ACLU of Delaware (ACLU-DE), in partnership with the Prisoners’ Legal Advocacy Network (PLAN) and the Delaware State Conference of Branches of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP-DE), sent a letter to the Delaware Department of Correction (DDOC) calling for changes in prison voting systems and practices to allow eligible incarcerated voters to exercise their right to vote by absentee ballot. The letter makes clear that DDOC officials have a legal responsibility to ensure eligible voters may cast a ballot, and they are currently failing to meet those obligations.
“DDOC’s ongoing interference with the constitutional voting rights of eligible voters held in DDOC facilities is unacceptable. Officials have stated they plan to use the same measures in 2022 as implemented during the 2020 presidential election, where it appears not a single incarcerated voter successfully cast a ballot. The right to vote is sacred in our nation, and these officials must do better,” said Dwayne J. Bensing, ACLU-DE legal director.
The concerns raised in the letter were previously addressed at an internal meeting between DDOC officials, Senator Marie Pinkney, Representative Eric Morrison, Department of Elections Commissioner Anthony Albence, and advocates including representatives from ACLU-DE and PLAN on August 17, 2022. At that meeting, attendees sought clarity regarding how eligible voters in DDOC custody would have access to voter registration forms, absentee voter applications, and absentee ballots. What they discovered in that meeting was an ongoing lack of action to address issues that are barring all eligible voters from exercising their right to vote while incarcerated.
With less than two months remaining for eligible voters to register to vote, request an absentee ballot, and return that ballot in time for the November 8, 2022 General Election, advocates are calling for these changes as a matter of urgent concern. They’ve asked for DDOC to provide reasonable assurances of the following no later than Monday, September 19, 2022:
- Eligible voters were provided an opportunity to register to vote and request and return an absentee ballot in the 2022 Primary Election concluded on September 13, 2022 and the means by which such opportunities were afforded; and
- Eligible voters will be provided an opportunity to register to vote and request and return an absentee ballot in the 2022 General Election concluding on November 8, 2022, by:
- Providing accurate voter registration and absentee ballot request and return information to all eligible voters in DDOC custody;
- Training and monitoring all mailroom employees’ understanding of the proper procedures for immediately processing any voter registration forms and absentee voter requests or ballots;
- Training and monitoring all DDOC employees’ understanding of the proper procedures for immediately providing any necessary voter registration forms and identification documents, absentee voter applications, and absentee ballots;
- Identifying and correcting all unreasonable and unjustifiable barriers that prevented eligible voters from successfully casting an absentee ballot in the 2020 General Election; and
- Permitting PLAN, Coalition Partners, and/or other voting rights advocates access to provide educational information and any other assistance to eligible voters in DDOC custody to successfully cast an absentee ballot.
The letter closes with a clear message: DDOC is on notice. Failure to provide the requested assurances may result in further legal action.