Wilmington City Councilman Vash Turner

Wilmington City Councilman Vash Turner

Wilmington City Councilman Va'Shaun "Vash" Turner, who lost his bid to be city treasurer in the recent election, has filed a federal lawsuit against the state over voting "irregularities" and "misconduct" on Primary Day in Wilmington.

The 16-page handwritten lawsuit, filed September 18, 2020, claims polling places in Wilmington were changed on primary day "without notice."

"Such actions resulted in the suppression of votes and the disenfranchisement and abridgement of the right to vote of minority voters in the city of Wilm., including but not limited to the votes of African American and Latinos," the complaint reads.

Turner, who is representing himself in the lawsuit, claims the state was in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment, which gives voters a substantive right to participate equally with other qualified voters in the electoral process.

"Defendants...have deprived and will continue to deprive Black voters in Del., specifically in the City of Wilm. of equal protection under the law," the complaint said.

He goes on to say that several Black voters complained, upon arrival at their polling place, that elections officials denied them the right to vote.

"Based on their registration having been switched to independent without voter intent or prior authorization," he said.

Delaware is a closed primary state, meaning only voters of a selected party can vote in those races. Independent voters are excluded from primary participation.

Turner also claims evidence in the case will show a history of racial discrimination that hinders Black voting. His lawsuit also cites the General Assembly's law to allow vote-by-mail in elections for the remainder of this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, which he said "waived safeguards" that "prevent voter fraud in electronic votes."

"The new opportunity to vote by email due to COVID-19 concerns was not disseminated to the majority of Wilmington's Black community," he claimed.

Except, Delaware's vote-by-mail law did not allow for email voting in the primary. Ballots could be requested via email, but not returned electronically. Delaware, as a ballot-in-hand state, required all ballots to be in the hands of elections officials, delivered by USPS mail or in secure ballot drop-boxes, by the close of polls at 8 p.m.

Turner's lawsuit comes on the day elections officials are to certify the results.

"In deciding whether to accept and count these fraudulent absentee ballots, or reject and discard these absentee ballots, the local election board will engage in a demonstrably standardless, inconsistent, and unreliable vote-by-email process that has been known to cause a disparate impact on ethnic and racial minorities as well as young first-time voters," the complaint said.

He adds those populations in Wilmington had their ballots "rejected" by the location election board.

State Elections Commissioner Anthony Albence and New Castle County Elections Commissioner Tracey Dixon had no comment on the lawsuit. Governor John Carney and Attorney General Kathy Jennings are also named in the lawsuit.

Turner couldn't be reached by telephone Friday night, and his voicemail was full.

Turner lost the Democratic primary for city treasurer to DaWayne Sims by less than 1,000 votes. Sims received 7,055 votes, according to elections data while Turner received 6,067 votes. That equates to 54 percent of the vote going to Sims. 

Turner's lawsuit calls for an injunction, seeking to stop the certification of election results.

"If an injunction is not granted, plaintiff will suffer irreparable harm. since the certification of election results would result in the certification of an unelected candidate but also removal of a duly elected candidate," said Turner, who gave up running for re-election for his city council seat to run for treasurer.

The Board of Elections has a public meeting Monday, September 21, 2020.

Here's the full complaint: