A bill allowing Delawareans to vote by mail in all outstanding 2020 elections due to coronavirus pandemic is heading to Governor John Carney's desk for his signature.
The state Senate passed House Bill 346, an expansion of vote-by-mail, in a vote 18-3, during a virtual session Thursday, June 25, 2020, just days before the legislative session ends.
Senate President Pro Tempore David McBride, a sponsor of the bill, called hundreds of thousands heading to the polls in-person to cast a ballot during a pandemic a "recipe for disaster."
"Voting in person carries many of the same COVID-19 risks," said McBride. "We have a moral obligation to provide our constituents...with safe secure options to cast their ballots. This is not some imaginary hypothetical concern."
The measure does not forbid anyone from casting a ballot in-person. All usual polling places will be open, according to Delaware Department of Elections Director Anthony Albence.
"The idea here is to offer more options not less...no one should ever have to choose between their health and voting in a free and open election," McBride said.
Completed ballots must be signed by the voter, but Albence said current state law does not require signature verification.
"We do have many voter signatures on file, thanks to our longtime affiliation with DMV...so that can be an option, if we have an issue, if there's a potential challenge...that can be a point of reference," noted Albence.
Delaware voters will not incur postage costs to vote by mail, if they so choose. Federal funds from the CARES Act will help the Delaware Department of Elections pay for vote-by-mail expansion.
Democratic Senator Jack Walsh sponsored earlier legislation to allow vote-by-mail pre-pandemic. He called this a good trial run for House Bill 175.
"This bill was originally about voter convenience, voter satisfaction, citizens being able to stay at home [and] take all the time they need to study the issues and to increase voter turnout, and along with that, this was also a job creation bill for the United Postal Workers union; this has morphed into more than that right now--this is a public safety bill."
Senator Colin Bonini (R-Dover) was among the "no" votes after several Republican amendments to the bill failed to pass.
"I think the reality is that we are inviting fraud. I'm not going to accuse anyone of doing that...it is going to happen. We are going to have vote harvesting in Delaware, period," he said.
Senators Wilson and Hocker also voted "no."
Last week, the vote-by-mail expansion passed the state House along party lines in a vote 25-13.
Governor Carney will sign the measure.
“My position on this issue has been simple and consistent. We should make it easier - not harder - for all Delawareans to exercise their fundamental right to vote and participate in our democratic process. That’s especially important this year as our state and country continue to grapple with the impact of the global COVID-19 pandemic. This legislation will make sure that Delawareans can fairly and securely cast their ballots and have their voices heard," he said in a written statement sent shortly after the bill's passage.