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Legislative wrap-up 1/18/19

January 18, 2019
Voter participation bills filed Jan. 9

Three bills written to encourage and increase voter participation in Delaware's electoral process were filed Jan. 9 by House Democrats.

House Bill 38, sponsored by Rep. Bentz, D-Christiana, would have Delaware join 35 states that have in-person early voting, allowing residents to cast ballots before Election Day. The measure would require the Department of Elections to offer early voting to Delawareans for 10 days before a general, primary or special election, including the weekend before Election Day. Maryland and New Jersey are among the states that offer early voting.

House Bill 41, sponsored by Rep. Stephanie T. Bolden, D-Wilmington, would move Delaware’s state primary elections to coincide with its presidential primary elections in April.

Delaware holds its presidential primaries for both major parties on the fourth Tuesday in April, but the 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 2020, and it also would move off-year elections (2022, 2026, etc.) to the same Tuesday.

House Majority Caucus officials said 30 percent of registered Democrats and 37.7 percent of registered Republicans voted in the 2016 presidential primary. But those numbers dropped to 20 percent of Democrats and 16 percent of Republicans in the state primary later that year. In 2012, GOP primary voter participation dropped from 16 percent in the presidential primary to 13 percent in the state primary.

House Bill 39, sponsored by Rep. John Viola, D-Newark, would allow eligible residents to register to vote and cast their ballots on the same day.

Under the bill, a person would be able to register to vote at his or her polling place on the day of a presidential or state primary or general or special election by showing a valid government-issued photo identification card, current utility bill, bank statement, paycheck or other government document displaying the name and address of the person registering to vote. Those are the same criteria required for a person registering to vote under current Delaware law.

Current state law sets the last day to register before an election at the “fourth Saturday prior to the date of the election.”

Senate leader vows no more marathon session this year

Senate President Pro Tempore David McBride, D-Hawk's Nest, announced Jan. 9 that he will not allow an all-night session this session in order to pass the state's budget and other financial bills.

“Three critical pieces of legislation – the operating budget, the bond bill, and the grant in aid bill – will be voted upon by the Senate no later than 1 a.m. on July 1, 2019. If this troika of finance legislation is not completed on or before 1 a.m. on July 1, I will recess the Senate to the call of the President Pro Tempore at 1 a.m., and then reconvene the Senate at 4 p.m. on July 1, and at the same time on each day following until these bills and passed and sent to the Governor,” he announced on the Senate floor. “I believe that putting an end to the all-night session will both promote a more deliberative resolution of any issues that would impede passage of the key finance measures at the end of session and at the same time allay a serious threat to those traveling on Delaware’s roads on July 1. The days when members and staff of the Delaware Senate must watch the sun rise over Legislative Hall on July 1 are over.”