Governor Carney Signs Vote By Mail Legislation

House Bill 346 creates safe, more direct alternative to in-person voting due to COVID-19

WILMINGTON, Del.  – Governor John Carney on Wednesday signed into law House Bill 346, legislation sponsored by House Majority Leader Valerie Longhurst that allows Delawareans to vote by mail in the 2020 primary, general and special elections. House Bill 346 makes voting by mail an alternative to in-person voting due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and establishes procedures for voting by mail which mirror the procedures for absentee voting. Voting by mail does not replace in-person voting, which will be available for those not voting by absentee or mail ballot.

Watch video of bill signing on Facebook or YouTube.

“My position on this issue has been simple and consistent. We should make it easier – not harder – for all Delawareans to exercise their fundamental right to vote and participate in our democratic process,” said Governor Carney. “That’s especially important this year as our state and country continue to grapple with the impact of the global COVID-19 pandemic. This legislation will make sure that Delawareans can fairly and securely cast their ballots and have their voices heard.”

“The COVID-19 pandemic has drastically changed our lives as we have taken steps to protect residents’ health and reduce the spread of the virus. No resident should have to choose between their health and exercising their right to vote, and House Bill 346 will make sure no one has to make that difficult choice,” said House Majority Leader Valerie Longhurst, the lead sponsor of the bill. “This new law gives every voter the option to cast their ballot by mail. Given the uncertainties of the virus and the steps we have to take to limit its spread, this is a critical option. We’ve done this the right way, using an existing, successful absentee voting system Delaware has used for decades. What we have done today will ensure that the 2020 elections in Delaware are a model for other states, not a ‘what went wrong?’ highlight on TV.”

“No one should ever have to choose between their health and voting in a free and open election,” said Senate President Pro Tempore David McBride. “With another spike of coronavirus cases expected in the fall just as many Delawareans prepare to exercise their fundamental right to vote, we have an obligation to provide our constituents – particularly those with a heightened risk of contracting COVID-19 – with safe, secure options for casting their ballots. House Bill 346 does not prevent a single person from voting in person, but it will give voters a choice that will preserve our democracy and could very well save lives.”

 

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Accessible Voting Available for July 7th Presidential Primary

Accessible Voting Available for July 7th Presidential Primary

The Delaware Department of Elections (“Department”) and Disabilities Law Program of Community Legal Aid Society, Inc. (“DLP”) are pleased to announce the reactivation of Delaware’s pilot accessible absentee voting program through Democracy Live. This system offers electronic delivery of accessible ballots, a ballot marking tool, and submission by voter choice of mail, fax or email for military and overseas voters as well as voters with disabilities. Delaware law has provided for electronic delivery and return of absentee ballots for military and overseas voters covered under the provisions of the Uniform and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA) since 2010, and for voters who are sick or disabled since 2012.

The Department is piloting the Democracy Live system for the Presidential Primary to offer these services to replace a now retired in-house system that formerly provided such services, but which is no longer compatible with the State’s current election systems. Earlier this month the Department paused this pilot program to research claims about the security of the system recently published in the media. These concerns focused particularly on system hosting arrangements and the online return of ballots. Although the Department has experienced no issues with the system, and has received positive feedback from many voters who have used the system, the Department took these concerns seriously and thoroughly discussed and researched them.

The DLP, as Delaware’s Protection and Advocacy System for people with disabilities, immediately raised concerns with the Department. They claimed that without an accessible electronic ballot delivery and marking system, paper absentee ballots would not be accessible to voters with print or visual disabilities, who would have to give up their privacy and independence to seek assistance in voting or potentially risk their health during the COVID-19 pandemic to vote in person.

The DLP and the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) contacted the Department about the feasibility of reinstating Democracy Live or implementing an alternative accessible voting option for the July 7th primary and beyond. An inaccessible ballot system, the advocates asserted, was contrary to the mandates of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (“Section 504”), and Delaware law, including Article I, Section 3 of the Delaware Constitution, which requires free and equal elections.

Acknowledging these concerns, the Department undertook a thorough review of the security of the Democracy Live system. This review included dialogue with some of the researchers who have recently published articles citing security concerns about the system in order to discuss those concerns and what action steps could be taken to mitigate them. The Department is also working closely with the State’s Department of Technology and Information (“DTI”) to ensure the highest levels of security are in place. Following these efforts, the Department reinstated the pilot program for accessible electronic delivery and marking of ballots with additional security enhancements. Immediate steps include a switch to client-side ballot marking, as well as discontinuing the electronic ballot return option. These changes address directly concerns raised in the recent articles. Voters continue to be provided their ballots electronically, can mark their ballots electronically, and have options to return marked ballots by mail, fax, or email (with the ability to be encrypted).

Looking ahead to fall elections, the Department is working with DTI to continue to enhance system security and transparency, while maintaining the convenience and accessibility features of the system.

The Department remains committed to ensuring equal opportunity for people with disabilities to vote in the upcoming July 7th Presidential Primary Election and beyond. Laura Waterland, Project Director of the DLP, said “We appreciate the seriousness with which the Department addressed our concerns. People with disabilities take their civic duties seriously and we are pleased that the Department is so committed to ensuring we all can vote.” “We commend Delaware election officials for hearing our concerns and taking swift action to protect the right of blind voters to cast our ballots privately and independently,” Mark Riccobono, President of the National federation of the Blind added, “We continue to demand that all states implement accessible absentee and mail voting as soon as possible to protect blind voters during the pandemic and to fully enfranchise us going forward.”

Press contacts:
Anthony Albence, Delaware Department of Elections, 302-739-4277, anthony.albence@delaware.gov
Laura J. Waterland, Esq. Disabilities Law Program, Community Legal Aid Society, Inc., 302-479-8906, lwaterland@declasi.org
Eve Hill, Partner, Brown Goldstein Levy, on behalf of the National Federation of the Blind, 202.802.0925cda; ehill@browngold.com

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Governor Carney Reschedules Presidential Primary for July 7

All eligible Delaware voters will receive absentee ballot applications by mail

WILMINGTON, Del. – Governor John Carney on Thursday signed the fifteenth modification to his State of Emergency declaration, rescheduling Delaware’s presidential primary for July 7. The Delaware Department of Elections will mail absentee ballot applications to all registered Democrats and Republicans in the State of Delaware, providing all eligible registered Delaware voters the opportunity to vote by absentee ballot in the presidential primary election. 

Governor Carney’s updated order also formalizes interim steps announced on Tuesday, allowing certain small businesses to resume limited operations effective 8:00 a.m. on Friday, May 8.

Read Governor Carney’s updated order.

“Delawareans have a basic, fundamental right to vote, and these changes will allow all Delaware voters to safely exercise that right,” said Governor Carney. “We are making progress. Delawareans have helped flatten the curve by staying home, and by practicing social distancing when you’re out in public. But this fight isn’t over.  Don’t go out in public unnecessarily, and wear a face covering when you do. Wash your hands often. Delawareans should stay vigilant, and stay informed at de.gov/coronavirus.”

Eligible Delaware voters will be permitted to select the “sick” or “temporarily or permanently physically disabled” options on their absentee ballot application to cast a vote in the presidential primary election, even if they are not exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19. Voters must return the application to the Delaware Department of Elections or complete the process online to receive an absentee ballot. The Delaware Department of Elections will operate at least six polling places in each county to allow voters to cast ballots in person should they choose not to vote by absentee ballot. 

Governor Carney’s order on Thursday also reschedules school board elections for July 21, and places additional requirements on municipalities that are conducting elections. The order requires districts and municipalities to enforce social distancing during elections, require face coverings, and limit crowds to 10 or fewer people at polling places. 

Governor Carney’s State of Emergency declaration – including the stay-at-home order and mandatory 14-day quarantine for out-of-state travelers – remains in place and carries the force and effect of law. Violations of the order, or any of its modifications, constitute a criminal offense. 

Anyone with a question about COVID-19, whether related to medical or social service needs, should call Delaware 2-1-1; or 7-1-1 for individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing. Or text your ZIP code to 898-211. Hours of operation are 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday; 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. 

Questions can also be submitted by email at DPHCall@delaware.gov.

DPH will continue to update the public as more information becomes available. For the latest on Delaware’s response, go to de.gov/coronavirus.

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Changes in upcoming School Board and Municipal Elections

Wilmington. Governor Carney changed upcoming School Board and Municipal Elections in his 6th update to the State of Emergency.

The Governor ordered School Board elections scheduled for May 12th delayed until June 16th.

He  also ordered municipal elections scheduled before May 15th cancelled and  rescheduled no earlier than May 15, 2020. The Governor further ordered the extension of the terms of existing officeholders until after the re-scheduled elections.

 


Presidential Primary changed to June 2, 2020

Wilmington. Governor Carney changed the Presidential Primary to June 2, 2020 in his 6th update to the State of Emergency.  The change caused changes in two deadlines.

  1. The  deadline to change party affiliation changed April 3, 2020.
  2. The  deadline to register to vote changed to May 8, 2020.

The Governor also ordered that citizens who want to vote by absentee ballot due to COVID-19 can use the “sick or or temporarily or permanently physically disabled” reason when requesting a ballot.

Persons can request an absentee ballot online at https://ivote.de.gov. They can also download the Absentee Form, complete it and return it by email, FAX or mail to the Department of Elections Office for their County.