Statewide Voting Coalition Pushes for Expanded Access to the Ballot with Virtual Advocacy Day
WILMINGTON—Earlier today, a statewide coalition of voting rights advocates held a virtual advocacy day in support of House Bill 75 (HB 75) and other legislative measures that would expand access to the ballot.
The Delaware Voting Rights Coalition (DVRC) is Delaware's first statewide coalition of voting rights organizations and advocates, and is focused on encouraging voters and policy makers to consider reforms that will improve access to voting — like HB 75.
HB 75, the second leg of a constitutional amendment sponsored by Representative David Bentz, aims to permanently guarantee the right to no-excuse absentee voting by amending the Delaware State Constitution and providing the General Assembly with power to regulate the circumstances, rules, and procedures for absentee voting. The first leg of this constitutional amendment, HB 73, passed the General Assembly in 2020 with overwhelming bipartisan support.
Over 160,000 Delawareans were allowed to vote with an absentee ballot in 2020 because of temporary emergency legislation. Unless the General Assembly acts this year, many of these voters will not be eligible to cast an absentee ballot this election season.
The advocacy day was targeted at four representatives who, despite voting to pass the first leg of this constitutional amendment in 2020, have yet to support HB 75 this session. The coalition organized constituents of Reps. Hensley (RD 9), Ramone (RD 21), Shupe (RD 36), and Smith (RD 22) to attend constituent meetings with these representatives and urge them to support HB 75 and other ballot access measures.
To prepare for the meetings with these legislators, DVRC hosted a training on Monday, January 24, which was recorded for advocacy day participants who could not attend at that time. A recording of this training is available online here: https://youtu.be/72Xtmy_PbLA.
“We need a constitutional amendment so that ALL voters, no matter their reason, may receive and cast their Delaware ballot remotely,” said Jill Itzkowitz of the League of Women Voters, a DVRC member.
Participants also advocated for other initiatives during the meetings, including permanent vote by mail and same day voter registration.
HB 25, the same day registration (SDR) bill sponsored by Representative Sherry Dorsey Walker, provides election day registration for the presidential primary, primary, special, and general elections. Currently, the deadline is the fourth Saturday prior to the date of the election. In 21 states and D.C., where SDR has been implemented, voter participation has consistently been the highest in the nation.
No legislation for permanent vote by mail has been introduced yet, but advocates are hopeful that Delaware will see a bill this year.
“One thing is at the very core of our democracy: choice. Voters should have options on how we get to exercise that democratic choice,” said Evelyn Brady of Network Delaware, a DVRC member. “Permanent vote by mail could benefit working parents, informed voters who want to take their time researching each candidate’s positions on issues from the comfort of their home, voters without transportation, people who can’t leave work to get to a polling place, and so many others.”
During the advocacy day constituent meetings, participants had the opportunity to speak with Reps. Hensley, Ramone, Shupe, and Smith, and came away from each of those meetings with mixed reviews on where the legislators stand on expanding access to the ballot. All four Representatives told constituents they supported no-excuse absentee voting.
Claire Snyder-Hall of Common Cause Delaware, and a DVRC member, said “The representatives we met with today all have different opinions on how to protect and expand access to the ballot, but one underlying truth was evident: that each representative cares about the democracy they were elected to uphold. We urge them to reflect on today’s meetings with their constituents and strongly consider support for HB 75, HB 25, and permanent vote by mail. The 2022 election season depends on it.”
“DVRC is excited to use this advocacy day momentum to reveal our new coalition branding and an explainer video on expanding access to the ballot in 2022: both of which can be found at ACLU-DE.org/DVRC,” said Dwayne Bensing, staff attorney at the ACLU of Delaware and a DVRC member. “We will be using advocacy and communications to educate Delaware voters on these issues over the next few months, and we look forward to seeing HB 75, HB 25, and permanent vote by mail become law in Delaware by June 30.”
Learn more about DVRC and find talking points on each of these issues, a full list of coalition members, legislative advocacy training materials, and more at aclu-de.org/dvrc.