A bill allowing Delaware residents to vote by mail has passed the General Assembly and now goes to Gov. John Carney to sign into law. The bill would take effect immediately, allowing a vote-by-mail option in the state’s September primary.
In addition to the primary, residents would be able to vote by mail in future general elections or special elections. The bill passed the House June 29 by a vote of 25-12 with three not voting and one absent. The Senate passed the bill June 16 by a 13-8 vote.
Under Senate Bill 320, voters who complete an online or paper application would then receive a mail ballot, instructions to complete the mail ballot, and a postage-paid envelope before Election Day. Completed ballots could then be returned by mail, deposited in a secure dropbox, or delivered directly to the Department of Elections offices in each of Delaware’s three counties. Voters also would be able to track the status of their ballot through a free online portal.
The bill would create a team made up equally of Democrats and Republicans appointed by the state election commissioner to open mail ballots, checking them against the department’s list of voters, and counting them by election district.
The department would be required to reject ballots if the voter is not registered by the deadline, the ballot envelope is open, or in instances of evident tampering. Ballots also could be challenged if the voter did not request a ballot or the ballot is not signed, among other reasons.
The bill permits any qualified voter to cast their ballot by mail through the General Assembly’s existing power in Article V, Section 1 of the Constitution to prescribe the means, methods and instruments of voting. Currently, at least 23 states allow some form of mail ballot.
In response, Jane Brady, chair of the Delaware Republican Party, said, “The vote-by-mail bill is clearly and patently unconstitutional, and the legislators who voted for it know that. Taxpayers will be required to spend money to defend the state's constitution. It was irresponsible and dishonest of the Democrat majority in the General Assembly to simply pass a vote-by-mail law that they claimed for years required a constitutional amendment to implement. They are putting the burden on others to enforce the constitution. Shame on them for failing all of us."
Maternal health, pregnancy bills pass General Assembly
Three bills pertaining to maternal health and pregnancy passed the General Assembly and await action by Gov. John Carney.
House Bill 340 would change the name of the Child Death Review Commission to the Maternal and Child Death Review Commission, and add membership to include a midwife, and one maternal and one child advocate from statewide nonprofit organizations. The definition of maternal death would also be updated, and the commission would be required to publicly post its draft report and accept written public comment.
House Bill 343 will require the Division of Medicaid and Medical Assistance to present a plan to the General Assembly by Nov. 1, so that people under Medicaid can have doula services to provide physical, emotional and educational support before, during and after childbirth. This would include support and assistance during labor and childbirth, prenatal and postpartum support and education, breastfeeding assistance and parenting education.
House Bill 234 would expand Medicaid coverage to pregnant women from the current coverage of 60 days from the end of pregnancy to a year.
Child protections laws await governor signature
Two bills aimed to protect children from child abuse and exploitation await Gov. John Carney’s signature.
House Bill 428 will expand Delaware’s existing sexual exploitation laws that criminalize child pornography to also include the creation, possession and distribution of images of children partially nude, scantily clad or otherwise intended for sexual stimulation.
House Bill 462 will enhance the ability to work across state agencies to address child abuse and better protect the welfare of abused children. The bill also creates a framework for parties in Family Court civil proceedings to access forensic interview records created by child advocacy centers to avoid reinterviewing them for court proceedings.
Paid sick leave bill stalls in committee
A bill to require Delaware employers with 10 or more employees to grant at least an hour of paid sick time and safety leave for every 30 hours worked did not advance out of the House Economic Development/Banking/Insurance & Commerce Committee. House Bill 409 would also allow paid sick time to be used for medical appointments and for attending counseling, meetings with attorneys and filing police reports. If support of the bill changes, it will go to the House floor for a vote before heading to a Senate committee prior to a Senate vote.