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.


Delaware ranks third nationally in 2016 Election Performance Index, or EPI.

Wilmington – Delaware ranks third nationally in the 2016 Election Performance Index, or EPI.  The State finishes behind Vermont and Minnesota. Delaware ranked from fifth to ninth in previous EPIs.

The EPI evaluates the overall performance in election administration of the 50 states and the District of Columbia. The Pew Center for the States produced the first EPI following the 2008 General Election. Pew published subsequent EPIs following the 2010, 2012 and 2014 General Elections. The EPI uses data from various surveys to determine State scores in the 17 indicators used to rank the States. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) took over the EPI starting with the 2016 General Election.  The EPI includes a detailed explanation of the methodology.

Delaware scored higher than the National Average in 13 areas, including:

  • Residual vote rate of 0.32% compared to the National Average of 1.4%. The EPI states that this “…measures the performance of voting [equipment] by calculating the number of under- and over-votes cast in an election, as a percentage of voter turnout.” The EPI explains this topic more fully in the Indicators section.
  • Voting wait time of 4.9 minutes compared to the National Average of 8.24 minutes.
  • Voter registration rate of 86.99% compared to the National Average of 84.18%.
  • Turnout of 64.61% compared to the National Average of 61.64%.

Delaware scored lower that the National Average in the following areas:

  • Disability or illness-related voting problems where Delaware scored 17.22% compared to the National Average of 14.16%.
  • Mail ballots not returned where Delaware scored 11.93% compared to the National Average of 11.11%.
  • Military and overseas ballots rejected where Delaware scored 4% compared to the National Average of 3.55%.
  • Registrations rejected where Delaware scored 7.58% compared to the National Average of 5.65%.  Long-standing procedures resulted in staff coding records coding records as rejected instead of duplicate or test records. The Department corrected this problem. Delaware’s future rejected registration score will be much lower than the National Average.

Delaware uses technology to improve the delivery of election services to the State’s voters.  The state’s iVote voter portal is a “one-stop location” where Delaware voters can register to vote, update their voter registration, find their polling place, view their sample ballot, request an absentee ballot, and much more at their convenience. The iVote system operates 24/7/365 with the exception of brief periods for maintenance.  Additionally, the Delaware’s award-winning e-Signature system, is a model copied by many states including those touting automatic registration.  The e-Signature system offers a convenient method for Delaware’s citizens to register to vote or update their voter registration record while conducting business with the Division of Motor Vehicles, maximizing efficiency and respecting their busy schedules.

State Election Commissioner Elaine Manlove noted: “Delaware’s Elections Team is dedicated to providing the highest quality and most convenient voter registration and voting experience to the State’s voters. Our mission of using technology to improve every facet of elections is reflected in our EPI rating.  We will remain dedicated to continually improving the quality of service provided to Delawareans.”

Contact: Howard Sholl, Department of Elections, New Castle County Office, (302) 577-3464.


Absentee voting for the Thursday, September 6th Primary Election has started for voters in New Castle County, Delaware.

Wilmington – Absentee voting for the Thursday, September 6th Primary Election, has started for voters in New Castle County, Delaware. New Castle County  Democrats or Republicans may vote by absentee ballot for a reason stated in the Delaware Code. Voters must return their voted absentee ballots to the New Castle County Office no later than 8 p.m. on Thursday, September 6, 2018, in order for them to be counted.

Those eligible to vote by absentee ballot in the Primary may vote in-person starting August 11th. The in-person schedule is here.  People can vote by absentee ballot in-person at the New Castle County Office or the New Castle County Warehouse. The addresses for these buildings are below.

Delaware provides absentee services to Delaware citizens:

  • Within the United States,
  • Who are members of a Uniformed Service and their family, or
  • Living outside the United States.

Delaware citizens living in the United States can request an absentee ballot:

  • Fastest – Online via the IVOTE system,
  • Slower – By printing an application, completing it, and emailing or mailing it to the New Castle County Office. The mailing address is below.
  • Slowest – By asking the New Castle County Office ( (302) 577-3464) to email or mail you an Absentee Application. Then completing the form and emailing or mailing it to the New Castle County Office. The mailing address is below.

Uniformed service members and their family members as well as citizens living outside the United States, get the most efficient service by submitting a Federal Post Card Application (FPCA) to the New Castle County Office. They can do this:

For more information regarding about voting by absentee ballot in New Castle County check our Web Site, email the office, or call (302) 577-3464.

Citizens of Kent County should call  (302) 739-4498 or email the Kent County Office for information regarding absentee voting, and citizens of Sussex County  should call (302) 856-5367 or email the Sussex County Office for information regarding absentee voting.

Mailing address:
Department of Elections, New Castle Office
PO BOX 7079
WILMINGTON DE 19803-0079

In-person absentee voting locations:
Department of Elections, New Castle County Office
Carvel State Office Building
820 N FRENCH ST SUITE 400
WILMINGTON DE 19801

Department of Elections, New Castle County Warehouse
220 LISA DR
NEW CASTLE DE 19720

Contact: Howard Sholl, Department of Elections, New Castle County Office, (302) 577-3464.


Saturday, August 11th is the last day for unregistered citizens to register to vote before the Thursday, September 6th Primary.

Saturday, August 11th is the last day for unregistered citizens to register to vote before the Thursday, September 6th Primary. Citizens who are already registered do not have to re-register.

The quickest and easiest way to register to vote is via Delaware’s IVOTE system. This system is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week with the exception of occasional brief periods for system maintenance. In order to be eligible to vote in the Primary you must be registered as a Democrat to vote in the Democratic Primary or as a Republican to vote in the Republican Primary. Folks registering without designating a party or with another party will not be able to vote in the September Primary. Citizens who are already registered without a party affiliation or in another political party can apply to change their party affiliation, however the change will not be effective until after the September 6th Primary.

Another way to register is to print a form, complete it and mail it to the Department of Election office in your county.  In order to be eligible to vote in the Primary, the envelope containing the Voter Registration Application must be postmarked on or before August 11th.

Delaware’s Election Offices in each county will be open from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. on Saturday, August 11th for those who want to register in-person. The addresses are listed below.

State Election Commissioner – 905 S. Governors Ave Suite 170, Dover DE 19904, Telephone: (302) 739-4277

Kent County Office – 100 Enterprise Pl Suite 5, Dover DE 19904. Phone: (302) 739-4498

New Castle County Office – Carvel State Office Building, 820 North French St Suite 400, Wilmington DE 19801, Phone: (302) 577-3464

New Castle County Warehouse – 220 Lisa Dr, New Castle DE 19720, Phone: (302) 328-8652

Sussex County Office – 119 N. Race St, Georgetown DE 19947, Phone: (302) 856-5367

Contact: Howard Sholl, Dept of Elections, New Castle County Office, (302) 577-5066.


Party affiliation change deadline approaching

Wilmington –  The deadline for a person to change their party affiliation before Delaware’s 2018 Primary Election is Friday, May 25, 2018.  You must be registered as a Democrat or Republican to vote in a primary. Democrats vote in a Democratic Primary and Republicans vote in a  Republican Primary. Delaware does not permit persons registered as unaffiliated or with another party to vote in a Primary Election.

You can change your party affiliation –

♦ On-line at https://ivote.de.gov (available 24/7).

♦ Any business day at a Department of Elections office until 4:30 p.m.

♦ By returning a completed application to one of the State’s Election offices.

Department Offices:

♦ State Election Commissioner – 905 S. Governors Ave Suite 170, Dover DE 19904, Phone: (302) 739-4277.

♦ Kent County Office – 100 Enterprise Pl Ste 5, Dover DE 19904, Phone: (302) 739-4498.

♦ New Castle County Office – Carvel State Office Building, 820 North French St Suite 400, Wilmington DE 19801, Phone: (302) 577-3464 .

♦ Sussex County Office – 119 N. Race St, Georgetown DE 19947, Phone: (302) 856-5367.