Governor Carney: Let’s Remove Barriers to Voting

Op-ed by Governor John Carney

I was in Millsboro on Election Day, and in addition to greeting old friends as they went to the polls, I had an especially meaningful experience. A young man was walking nervously toward the fire station that doubled as his polling place. As I stuck out my hand to introduce myself, he said, “Do you know how this works?” I looked at him funny and he said, “I’m a first-time voter. I’ve never done this before.”

Fortunately, poll workers were able to tell him what he needed to know and he walked out a happy voter.

As Governor, I get to travel our state every day and talk to Delawareans from all walks of life.

Part of my job is to encourage more Delawareans – like that young man in Millsboro – to participate in our democratic process. To have their voices heard. And, most importantly, to vote in elections. We ought to make it as easy as possible, not harder, for eligible Delawareans to exercise their right to vote.

I hear all the reasons why Delawareans choose not to cast a ballot when the time comes:

Voting is inconvenient.

My vote doesn’t really matter.

Once elected, politicians do what they want, anyway.

Last November, in one of the most consequential midterm elections in memory, just over half of eligible Delawareans went to the polls. And that was considered a good turnout because only 36 percent voted in November 2014.

Even in the Presidential year of 2016, turnout was only 65 percent. That means that 35 percent of Delawareans didn’t help choose their President.

Far too many Delawareans are choosing not to exercise their right to vote – to engage the public officials they send to Washington or Dover.

That’s why – as we head back to Legislative Hall to begin the 150th General Assembly – I’m encouraging members of both political parties to support common sense reforms to our election laws that will get more Delawareans involved in discussions about their own future.

Put plainly, we should make it easier to cast a ballot.

First, we should pass legislation allowing same-day voter registration. Delawareans should not be prevented from voting because they did not register in time. All of our citizens have a fundamental right to vote – and allowing voters to register on Election Day is a sensible reform that could encourage more Delawareans to show up and vote.

It’s also important that we allow Delawareans more options about when to vote.

Last year, Representative David Bentz introduced legislation that would have allowed early voting at polling places up to 10 days before Election Day. I urge legislators to send that legislation to my desk this session.

More time to vote means fewer excuses to sit out an election. It also means reduced lines at polling places on Election Day. And early voting reduces the chance that bad weather or another unforeseen event will have an adverse effect on Election Day turnout.

There is additional legislation we should take a hard look at – reforms that would more seamlessly register voters at the Division of Motor Vehicles, move primary elections to coincide with presidential primary dates, and allow for no-excuse absentee voting. All three would make it easier for more Delawareans to participate.

Legislators like Representative Bentz, former Senator Margaret Rose Henry, Representative John Viola, Representative Earl Jaques, Representative Stephanie T. Bolden, and others already have been champions on this issue – and I look forward to working with all members of the General Assembly to make progress.

Throughout our country’s history, Americans have sacrificed to secure voting rights for women and African Americans. We have an obligation to build on that legacy by taking additional steps that will strengthen voter access for Delawareans and increase participation in our elections.

This should not be a partisan issue. Democrats and Republicans have an interest in getting more Delawareans to the polls.

Most importantly, we all have an interest in removing barriers to vote, and making sure all Delawareans are involved in our Democratic process.

We live in a small state where it’s common to run into your representatives at Wawa, in the grocery store, or your local Little League game.

We should also make it easier to have your voice heard at the ballot box.

 

Visit de.gov/votingreforms to support common sense voting reforms.


Wells Fargo Customers Will Have Chance to Be Compensated Under 50 State Settlement That Includes Delaware

Agreement resolves state consumer protection claims for alleged unfair and deceptive trade practices involving millions of accounts

Under a settlement filed December 28, 2018 with all 50 states and the District of Columbia over violations of state consumer protection laws, Wells Fargo Bank N.A. will create a consumer redress review program through which consumers who have not been made whole through other restitution programs already in place can seek review of their inquiry or complaint by a bank escalation team for possible relief.

The settlement resolves allegations by Delaware and other state attorney general offices that Wells Fargo violated state consumer protection laws by (1) opening millions of unauthorized accounts and enrolling customers into online banking services without their knowledge or consent, (2) improperly referring customers for enrollment in third-party renters and life insurance policies, (3) improperly charging auto loan customers for force-placed and unnecessary collateral protection insurance, (4) failing to ensure that customers received refunds of unearned premiums on certain optional auto finance products, and (5) incorrectly charging customers for mortgage rate lock extension fees.

The Delaware Department of Justice Consumer Protection Unit, which joined in the investigation and settlement, said any Delawarean who was or currently is a customer of Wells Fargo and experienced any of the above issues, will be able to utilize a dedicated website that will go live in late February 2019 to take steps to be compensated. Delaware DOJ will provide an update for consumers once more information concerning consumer redress is made available. The consumer redress process will be overseen by the federal Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

The Dec. 28 settlement represents the most significant engagement involving a national bank by state attorneys general acting without a federal law enforcement partner. In addition to the consumer restitution, as part of the settlement, Wells Fargo will pay a total of $575 million to the states and D.C.

In addition to the settlement with the states, Wells Fargo previously entered consent orders with federal authorities, which include restitution to consumers in excess of $600 million. Further, the bank settled a related consumer class-action lawsuit, and will pay over $1 billion in civil penalties to the federal government. Additionally, under an order from the Federal Reserve, the bank is required to strengthen its corporate governance and controls, and is currently restricted from exceeding its total asset size.

Wells Fargo has identified more than 3.5 million accounts where customer accounts were opened, funds were transferred, credit card applications were filed, and debit cards were issued without the customers’ knowledge or consent. The bank has also identified 528,000 online bill pay enrollments nationwide that may have resulted from improper sales practices at the bank. In addition, Wells Fargo improperly submitted more than 6,500 renters insurance and/or simplified term life insurance policy applications and payments from customer accounts without the customers’ knowledge or consent. The states alleged that Wells Fargo imposed aggressive and unrealistic sales goals on bank employees that created an impetus for employees to engage in improper sales practices.

The states also alleged that Wells Fargo improperly charged premiums, interest, and fees for force-placed collateral protection insurance to more than two million auto financing customers, despite evidence that the customers’ regular auto insurance policy was in effect. Additionally, the states alleged that Wells Fargo failed to ensure that customers received proper refunds of unearned portions of optional Guaranteed Asset/Auto Protection (GAP) products sold as part of motor vehicle financing agreements.
Finally, the states alleged that Wells Fargo improperly charged residential mortgage loan consumers for rate lock extension fees even when the delay was caused by Wells Fargo, a practice contrary to the bank’s policy.

Beyond the direct consumer relief, Delaware’s share of the $575 million Wells Fargo will pay to the states and DC as part of the settlement is just over $2 million, which will go to the state’s Consumer Protection Fund. The Fund pays the investigative costs, consumer outreach activities and operations of Delaware DOJ’s Consumer Protection Unit, with excess amounts returned to the state’s General Fund for allocation by the state legislature and Governor through the normal process.

Please click here to view the states’ agreement with Wells Fargo.


Drunk Driving Incident In Rehoboth Beach Sends Man to Prison

Robbery, weapons and drug charges lead to prison for other defendants

A Middletown man whose drunk driving led to accidents and injuries over a July weekend in Rehoboth Beach received a prison sentence in Superior Court. A judge sentenced Martin Tuohy, 45, to a total of 2 ½ years in prison, followed by a year of probation in exchange for his December 2018 no contest plea to Driving Under the Influence – Third Offense, Reckless Endangering First Degree, and 3 counts of Vehicular Assault Second Degree. While driving drunk, Tuohy fled from the scene of his first accident on Rehoboth Avenue, speeding and colliding with several parked cars before hitting a vehicle stopped at a red light. Tuohy continued driving, almost hitting several pedestrians, stopping after causing an accident that sent a family to the hospital, and then hitting a light pole. Deputy Attorney General Nichole Gannett prosecuted the case with assistance from social worker Laurel Braunstein.

A 38-year-old Middletown man faces at least 15 years in prison for robbing 2 New Castle County banks and a donut shop just over 6 years apart. Deputy Attorney General Will Raisis secured a guilty plea from Travis McNeal to 2 counts of Robbery First Degree and 1 count of Robbery Second Degree. In February 2012, McNeal robbed the Dunkin’ Donuts on Pulaski Highway in Glasgow, then later the same day robbed the PNC Bank on Kirkwood Highway near Prices Corner. Once the investigation led to McNeal, he was already in custody in Pennsylvania awaiting trial on robbery charges, and wanted for the same in Maryland. McNeal was returned to Delaware in December 2017, and while out on bail in March 2018, he robbed the Fulton Bank on Main Street in Middletown. McNeal faces a minimum mandatory sentence of 5 years on each count when sentenced by a Superior Court judge in March. DOJ paralegal Julianne Besznyak and social worker Courtney Cochran assisted with this case.

A traffic stop in Wilmington led to a prison sentence for an illegal firearm for a 23-year-old Wilmington man. In November 2018, John Stowe was the passenger in a car pulled over by Wilmington Police. When an officer asked Stowe to step out of the car, Stowe reached into his coat pocket. The officer, who was able to remove Stowe’s hand from his pocket and take him into custody, then found a loaded 9mm handgun in the pocket of Stowe’s coat. Stowe cannot legally possess a firearm because of a 2017 conviction for Carrying a Concealed Deadly Weapon. Stowe pled guilty to Possession of a Firearm By a Person Prohibited, and was immediately sentenced by a Superior Court judge to 5 years in prison including the completion of the Key drug rehabilitation program, followed by 6 months of either home confinement or work release, then 18 months of probation. Deputy Attorney General Marc Petrucci prosecuted the case.

Deputy Attorney General Michael Cooksey secured a prison sentence for a man dealing drugs in the Edgemoor Gardens area of Wilmington. A Superior Court judge sentenced Michael Poole, 40, of Wilmington to 2 years and 5 months in prison, followed by one year of probation. In November 2017, officers approached Poole who was wanted on outstanding warrants. As officers tried to handcuff Poole, he ran, and was taken into custody after a brief chase and struggle. Officers found him in possession of crack cocaine. In July 2018, Poole was arrested after agreeing to meet an undercover police officer for a drug sale. Poole pled guilty to Drug Dealing and 1 count of Resisting Arrest, and found guilty at trial of Possession of a Controlled Substance and 1 count of Resisting Arrest.


DPH Announces First Flu Deaths of the 2018-2019 Season; Officials Remind Delawareans to Get Vaccinated

DOVER — The Division of Public Health (DPH) is reporting the first flu-related deaths of the 2018-2019 flu season. A 65-year-old man who was infected with Influenza A passed away last week, making him the first person to die due to flu complications this season. In addition, a 73-year-old man and a 77-year-old woman, both also infected with Influenza A, passed away within the last week. All three individuals were Sussex County residents and all had underlying health conditions.

As of Dec. 22, 2018, the most recent date for which statistics are available, there have been 461 laboratory-confirmed cases of influenza in Delaware. This number only reflects the number of lab-confirmed cases; the actual number of cases circulating statewide is likely much higher. Additionally, 80 people have been hospitalized with flu-like symptoms since the start of the flu season. These numbers are an increase from the 2017-2018 season when at the same time, there were 225 laboratory-confirmed cases of influenza and 63 hospitalizations.

“Our hearts go out to the families and friends of those who have died from flu-related complications,” said DPH Director Dr. Karyl Rattay. “This is an unfortunate and solemn reminder that the flu can be deadly. If you haven’t already, please take the time to get a flu vaccine and make sure everyone in your family has received theirs, as well. The flu vaccine lowers your chances of getting the flu and can lessen the severity of symptoms if you do fall ill. Also be sure to take any antiviral medication as your doctor prescribes.”

Single-week numbers of laboratory-confirmed flu cases have started to increase in Delaware. A total of 179 lab-confirmed flu cases were recorded between Dec. 16 and Dec. 22, 2018, compared to 95 laboratory-confirmed cases reported between Dec. 9 and Dec. 15, 2018.

In addition to getting a flu vaccine and taking antiviral medication, DPH recommends the following:
• Practice social distancing if you have cold or flu-like symptoms.
• Wash hands frequently with soap and water or use alcohol-based hand sanitizers.
• Cover sneezes and coughs with a tissue, and dispose of tissues immediately; if no tissue is available,
sneeze or cough into your inner elbow.
• Stay home if you are sick until you are free of fever for 24 hours – with a temperature of less than 100
degrees F (37.8 degrees C), without the use of fever-reducing medications for at least 24 hours.

Social distancing means that those sick with the flu should stay home from work, school, and other gatherings and not return until they have been free of fever – with a temperature less than 100 degrees F (37.8 degrees C) without the use of fever-reducing medications for at least 24 hours. They should avoid close contact with well people in the household, and stay well-hydrated by drinking plenty of water and other clear liquids. Over-the-counter medicines can provide symptom relief, but if you suspect you have influenza, call your doctor as he or she may decide to provide antiviral medications to help hasten recovery and prevent serious complications. This is particularly important for those who feel very sick, are pregnant or have chronic medical conditions.

Flu symptoms come on suddenly, and include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, headaches and body aches, chills and fatigue. Some people get complications including pneumonia, bronchitis and sinus and ear infections. People with pre-existing health conditions such as diabetes and asthma are more susceptible to catching the flu.

DPH will be administering free flu vaccines in the basement floor Library in Legislative Hall at 410 Legislative Ave., Dover, on Wednesday, Jan. 16, from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Members of the public who wish to attend this flu clinic must go through security. Additionally, flu vaccines continue to be available at many pharmacies and grocery stores, and through primary care physicians and some specialists. To find participating stores, enter your zip code in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) flu vaccine finder at www.cdc.gov/flu/. For more information about the flu, visit flu.delaware.gov/ or call DPH at 1-800-282-8672.

Flu shots are still available at DPH clinics located within the State Service Centers:

• Porter State Service Center, 509 W. 8th St., Wilmington. For all ages 9 and up. Walk-ins are welcome Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to noon and from 1:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.

• Hudson State Service Center, 501 Ogletown Road, Newark. For all ages, including children age 6 months and older. Call 302-283-7587 (choose Option 2) to make an appointment Monday through Friday.

• Williams State Service Center, 805 River Road, Dover. For all ages, including children age 6 months and older. Call 302-857-5140 to make an appointment Monday through Thursday, 8:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

• Milford State Service Center – Riverwalk, 253 N.E. Front St., Milford. For ages 9 years and older. Call 302-424-7130 to make an appointment on Mondays from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. and Wednesdays from 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m.

• Anna C. Shipley State Service Center, 350 Virginia Ave., Seaford. For all ages, including children age 6 months and older. Walk-ins welcome Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. For information, call 302-628-6772.

• Adams State Service Center, 544 S. Bedford St., Georgetown. For all ages, including children age 6 months and older. Walk-ins welcome on Thursdays only from 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m.

For more information about flu surveillance in Delaware, read the weekly flu report at dhss.delaware.gov/dph/epi/influenzawkly.html.

A person who is deaf, hard-of-hearing, deaf-blind or speech-disabled can call the DPH phone number above by using TTY services. Dial 7-1-1 or 800-232-5460 to type your conversation to a relay operator, who reads your conversation to a hearing person at DPH. The relay operator types the hearing person’s spoken words back to the TTY user. To learn more about TTY availability in Delaware, visit http://delawarerelay.com.

Delaware Health and Social Services is committed to improving the quality of the lives of Delaware’s citizens by promoting health and well-being, fostering self-sufficiency, and protecting vulnerable populations. DPH, a division of DHSS, urges Delawareans to make healthier choices with the 5-2-1 Almost None campaign: eat 5 or more fruits and vegetables each day, have no more than 2 hours of recreational screen time each day (includes TV, computer, gaming), get 1 or more hours of physical activity each day, and drink almost no sugary beverages.


Delaware wins $4.2 million preschool development grant

Delaware has won a $4.2 million federal grant to strengthen its early childhood system. The grant will help the state better prepare children from all backgrounds to enter kindergarten ready to learn and will improve their transition between early childhood programs and the K-12 system.

The Delaware Department of Education’s Office of Early Learning — in partnership with the Governor’s Office and other state agencies — applied for the one-year Preschool Development Grant Birth through Five (PDG B-5).

The grant will fund a needs assessment and creation of a strategic plan focused on four priorities:

  • Coordinated services for children birth through age 5 and their families
  • Integration of data to influence early childhood policy decisions
  • Tools to foster family knowledge-building and choice
  • Professional learning across sectors using a shared whole-child development language

“This grant will help us improve the design of our early childhood system to help all children receive the highest quality early learning experiences and be ready for a successful transition to kindergarten,” Governor John Carney said.

Critical to the state’s plans is a needs assessment.

“Delaware must understand the experiences of families as well as early childhood professionals as they navigate our current system, which crosses state agencies and the public and private sectors,” Secretary of Education Susan Bunting said. “This needs assessment will allow subsequent policy and process solutions to be grounded in an analysis of the true needs of Delaware’s children and families.”

Delaware’s grant application built upon the state’s early childhood successes and existing priorities, including renewing the Delaware Early Childhood Council’s strategic plan for the next five years, Carney’s executive order making Delaware a trauma-informed state and the Actionable Intelligence for Social Policy grant that the state won to integrate its data systems.

This grant came to fruition thanks to strong public-private partnership, a testament to Delaware’s shared commitment to quality early learning. The Early Childhood Council’s priorities align with the themes of this grant—improved parent information and access, stronger data systems, and deeper coordination among programs and providers to support children’s development. We look forward to leveraging this opportunity to chart the roadmap for the next five years in Delaware,” said Madeleine Bayard, Delaware Early Childhood Council chair.

 

Media Contact: Alison May, alison.may@doe.k12.de.us, 302-735-4006