A reported record-breaking number of mail-in and absentee ballots in 2020’s primary election could carry over into this year's General Election.
Forty-three percent of votes cast in the primary election were from mail-in and absentee ballots, a number Gov. John Carney said was a new state record.
Based on the number of ballot requests so far, that record could be short-lived.
As of Oct. 8, Delaware Department of Elections Commissioner Anthony Albence said his department had received 151,000 requests for absentee and mail-in ballots for the General Election – double the number of such ballots recorded for the Sept. 15 primary.
“We are moving forward fulfilling these requests, processing the ballots returned, as well as preparing for in-person voting at polling places, including recruitment of poll workers, preparing for poll worker training, and preparing materials for use in outfitting polling places – including personal protective equipment for election officers (poll workers) to use in carrying out their duties while keeping themselves and voters safe,” Albence said.
By law, election officials are allowed to prepare mailed-in ballots 30 days before the election. Albence said ballot envelopes that have been received are checked for signatures and opened. The ballots are then put in a separate pile and scanned for tabulation, but not totaled, he said.
“No totals are tabulated until the close of the polls on Election Day,” Albence said.
Although about 76,000 mail-in ballots were counted during the primary, Albence said, about 109,000 ballots had been requested by voters. A total of 1,024 ballots were rejected – 203 because the envelopes were not signed by the voter, and 821 because they were received after polls closed.
A lawsuit filed by the League of Women Voters of Delaware in Chancery Court asking that ballots be counted as long as they have a postmark, scan or other U.S. Postal Service indicator showing the ballot was mailed on or before the 8 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 3 deadline was denied Oct. 9.
By law, Delaware is a ballot-in-hand state, meaning ballots must be returned to the county elections office that issued them by the close of polls – 8 p.m.
In a September press conference, Gov. John Carney encouraged people voting by mail to send their ballots early so they will be received before election night and can be counted. “It is the law,” he said of the 8 p.m. deadline.
The ACLU lawsuit decision comes on the heels of a lawsuit filed by the state Republican committee contesting the constitutionality of mail-in voting – a process created by legislation and signed into law by Carney.
Chancery Court Vice Chancellor Sam Glasscock upheld the constitutionality of the vote-by-mail bill, and the Republican Party accepted the decision. The mail-in voting law expires in January 2021.
On Oct. 13, Carney said he has confidence that Delaware's election will be safe, and all ballots will be counted on election night. He said the U.S. Postal Service in Delaware has said that ballots will be delivered if in the mail by Friday, Oct. 30.
“I'm very confident the Department of Elections will be able to count all the ballots,” Carney said, adding he is not concerned about voter fraud in Delaware even though other states may have that concern.
“The new machines are great,” he said. “They are much more secure, and have a paper ballot trail.”