A bill to automatically register anyone receiving a license or identifications card at the Division of Motor Vehicles has passed through the General Assembly and now awaits Gov. John Carney's signature.
Senate Bill 5 passed the House May 18 by a vote of 40-1. Rep. Rich Collins, R-Millsboro, was the lone vote in opposition.
“Establishing automatic voter registration in Delaware, allows for more voices to be heard, reduces errors and boosts security for everyone in our state,” said Rep. David Bentz, the lead House sponsor. “Voting is a fundamental right and I commend all of my colleagues for prioritizing election reform in the state of Delaware.”
Currently, Delawareans are asked if they would like to register or re-register as voters whenever they engage in a transaction at their local DMV. They then must provide information to complete the voter registration process.
Under the bill, an unregistered adult citizen eligible to register who provides proof of U.S. citizenship during a DMV license or identification card transaction would be automatically registered to vote by the Department of Elections.
People who register to vote under this automatic system but do not identify a specific political party would be able to affiliate at the polls during the primary election immediately following their registration.
Unregistered individuals who do not provide proof of U.S. citizenship or proof of non-citizenship during a license or identification card transaction would be offered the opportunity to register to vote during the DMV transaction only if they affirm citizenship and other eligibility requirements, consistent with federal law requirements and existing law.
In other legislative business:
Bill to move state primaries passes House
The House passed a bill May 18 to move Delaware’s state primary elections to coincide with its presidential primary elections in April.
House Bill 30 passed by a 37-4 vote, and now awaits action in the Senate Elections and Government Affairs Committee.
Currently, Delaware holds its presidential primaries for both major parties on the fourth Tuesday in April. However, the First State’s primaries for statewide and local political offices are held on the second Tuesday after the first Monday in September. The change would take effect with the presidential election in 2024, but it also would move “off-year” elections (2026, 2030, etc.) to the same Tuesday.
In 2020, Delaware had the latest state primary in the country, just seven weeks before Election Day. Delaware primaries are so late that the state constantly must obtain waivers for federal requirements for overseas and military ballots. This means Delawareans living overseas have very little time to receive, consider and return their ballots.
“Our elections should be as simple, clear and transparent as possible,” said Sen. Nicole Poore, D-New Castle, HB 30’s lead Senate sponsor. “By consolidating Delaware’s presidential primary with its state primary, we will not only put an end to needless confusion among our constituents, but also save taxpayers additional expense and – most importantly – increase voter turnout. This legislation is good common sense, good fiscal sense and good public policy.”
Family and medical leave bill introduced
A bill that would increase payroll taxes for all workers to pay for up to 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave through a statewide insurance program was introduced May 5.
Senate Bill 1, also known as the Healthy Delaware Families Act, would allow families time off when they experience a serious illness, welcome a new child, or need help adjusting to recent military deployment, among other qualifying events.
The bill would create a family and medical trust fund in Delaware modeled after similar programs in nine other states. The program would initially be funded through payroll contributions of about 1 percent of an employee’s weekly pay and split evenly between a worker and their employer. Future tax would be determined by the Department of Labor “based on sound actuarial principles,” according to the bill.
Businesses with fewer than 20 workers would not be required to pay the employer half of the premium, but their workers would still be covered – leveling the playing field for small businesses so they can provide this new benefit at little or no cost, according to a press release from the Senate Democratic caucus.
Eligible Delaware workers could then receive up to 80 percent of their average weekly wages through the state insurance program when forced to take extended time off from work due to a major medical event.
The federal Family and Medical Leave Act passed by Congress in 1993 provides some workers with job protections when they need extended absences of work for medical and family reasons. But workers are not guaranteed any pay during those 12 weeks, and a significant portion of Delaware’s workforce receive no protections at all under the law.