Delaware's 2020 primary is set for Tuesday, Sept. 15, with voting by mail still an option even though the state faces two lawsuits – one challenging the constitutionality of allowing people to vote by mail, and another asking the state to accept ballots postmarked on election day up to 10 days after the election.
For anyone who wants a mail-in ballot, the last day to request one from the Department of Elections is Friday, Sept. 11. And those who do, must get their ballots to the county election office that issued the ballot by 8 p.m., Tuesday, Sept. 15, if they want their vote counted.
Leading up to the primary, the Department of Elections has received more than 102,000 requests for absentee and vote-by-mail ballots, said State Election Commissioner Anthony J. Albence. About 50,000 of those have been returned to the elections department for the primary, he said.
Some controversy surrounds voting by mail – allowed after a temporary law was passed by the General Assembly in June and later signed by Gov. John Carney. The bill allows residents to vote by mail for the 2020 election year, and it expires January 2021.
In August, the Delaware Republican Party filed a lawsuit against the Delaware Department of Elections to stop voting by mail because they said it is unconstitutional. Carney, however, stands by the law.
“I would encourage people to vote by mail because it is safe,” he said during a Sept. 1 press conference. “Fill out your ballot and get it in soon.”
Second lawsuit filed
The Department of Elections now faces a second lawsuit related to voting by mail.
On Sept. 3, the League of Women Voters of Delaware and resident Rachel Grier-Reynolds filed a lawsuit requiring the Delaware Department of Elections to count mail-in ballots that have a postmark, scan or other U.S. Postal Service indicator showing the ballot was mailed on or before Nov. 3.
“Voting by mail is a secure and safe way for voters to cast their ballot, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. But Delaware’s current deadline for receiving ballots could mean thousands of voters would be disenfranchised because of mail delays,” said Karen Lantz, legal and policy director at the American Civil Liberties Union of Delaware, which supports the lawsuit. “By extending the deadline, it would also minimize the number of people that will need to access voting locations, thereby providing more space and less risk for those who choose to vote in person.”
Albence said 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. election day.
“We are permitted to begin to prepare and scan mail ballots starting 30 days prior to election day,” he said. “However, no ballots are tabulated in any way prior to close of polls on election night.”
Carney said he encourages people to send their mail-in ballots by Sept. 11 at the latest, since the ballot-in-hand rule stands. “It is the law,” he said.
Sept. 1 was the deadline for major party officials to nominate a candidate for offices for which no member of their party had filed. This means the Sussex County Council primary race will determine the winners since no Democrats filed for the seats.
Gov. John Carney
David Lamar Williams Jr.
State Insurance Commissioner
Sussex County Council District 3
Irwin “I.G.” Burton
Sussex County Council District 2
Lisa Hudson Briggs
Polls will be open across the state from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., Tuesday, Sept. 15. In the Cape Region, polling places include:
Lewes Fire Hall – 347 Savannah Road
Cape Henlopen High School – 1250 Kings Hwy.
Beacon Middle School – 19483 John J. Williams Hwy.
Shields Elementary – 910 Shields Ave.
Lewes School – 820 Savannah Road
Lewes-Rehoboth Fire Station 3 – 21194 John J. Williams Hwy.
Rehoboth Fire Hall – 219 Rehoboth Ave.
Rehoboth Elementary – 500 Stockley St. Ext.
Rehoboth Fire Co., station 2 – 36027 Airport Road
Milton Elementary – 400 Mulberry St.
Mariner Middle School – 16391 Harbeson Road
H.O. Brittingham Elementary – 402 Mulberry St.
Cool Spring Presbyterian Church Hall – 28842 Log Cabin Road
Harbeson Church Hall – 18636 Harbeson Road