The Delaware Senate on Thursday gave final approval to a bill authorizing universal voting by mail in primary, general and special elections in Delaware this year. The bill cleared the Democrat-led Senate on an 18-to-3 vote Thursday after passing the Democrat-controlled House last week on a strict party line vote.
Supporters of the bill said the coronavirus epidemic justifies allowing everyone in the state to vote by mail, rather than having to go to local polling places or request an absentee ballot.
Senate President Pro Tem David McBride, D-New Castle, said lawmakers have “a moral obligation” to ensure that voters can cast ballots without endangering their health.
Republicans expressed concern that the bill could lead to problems with election security and the vote count.
“We are inviting fraud,” warned Sen. Colin Bonini, R-Dover, one of the three GOP senators to vote against the measure. “It is going to happen. We are going to have vote harvesting in Delaware.”
Under coronavirus emergency declarations issued by Carney, state elections officials already had been ordered to mail absentee ballot applications to every Democratic and Republican voter for the July 7 presidential primary. Carney’s declarations also allow any voter in any primary or special election, regardless of whether he or she has contracted or been exposed to COVID-19, to choose “sick or temporarily or permanently physically disabled” to be eligible to vote absentee.
Under the voting by mail legislation, the Department of Elections will be required to mail applications for mail-in ballots to all voters in Delaware. Postage for the application return envelopes, as well as ballot return envelopes, will be paid by the state. Officials estimates that half of the votes in the September primary and in the November general election will be cast by mail.
Under existing state law, elections officials would still be required to provide a polling place in each election district.
“It will be a challenge to staff everywhere, ... but we are committed to doing that,” State Election Commissioner Anthony Albence told lawmakers, noting that officials sometimes have problems finding enough poll workers.