Allow Delaware to Vote by Mail
This is a critical time for our democracy. During the recent election in Wisconsin the number of polling places in Milwaukee — the state’s biggest city and the location of a COVID outbreak — were reduced from their normal 180 to only five. The pool of available volunteers was reduced by 80% while health and safety precautions made administering the election much more labor intensive than a normal election. The result was dangerous overcrowding at polling places.
Delaware must avoid chaotic elections in 2020. Delaware does not currently allow no-excuse absentee voting nor is there vote-by-mail. Due to the Corona Crisis, Gov. Carney has issued an order to include social distancing under the “sick or temporarily disabled” checkbox for absentee ballots for the two primaries in 2020, but did not make this available for the November election.
The Delaware General Assembly has postponed the current session and is expected to act on only a few critical bills. One of these should be HB 175 which is currently on the House ready list. This bill would allow any qualified voter to request a vote by mail ballot, which can be dropped off at any polling place or secure drop box. Passage of HB 175 would enable Delaware to join the 28 states that currently allow voters to vote by mail without providing a reason.
Some Delaware legislators have expressed concern that voting by mail will increase costs. However, a 2016 study of Colorado from the Pew Charitable Trusts found that voting by mail decreased costs by an average of 40 percent in five election administration categories across 46 of Colorado’s 64 counties (those with available cost data).
In addition to reducing the risk from Coronavirus, voting by mail has many other advantages. A new Brennan Center poll found that almost four out of five Americans support voting by mail. A 2016 study of voting patterns in Utah concluded that voting by mail increased turnout by 5-7 points. Low-propensity voters, including young voters, showed the greatest increase in turnout in vote-by-mail counties relative to their counterparts in non-vote-by-mail counties.
The State Elections Commission would establish procedures for voting by mail. An application for a mail ballot must be available at least 45 days prior to the election, but voters could also simply submit a written request for a mail ballot. Mail ballots could either be mailed to the Commission, dropped at a polling place, or dropped in secure lock boxes available at public locations in all three Delaware Counties.