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Bill to allow voting by mail this year awaits Carney’s signature

Bring it on, Gov. John Carney seemed to say in a released statement.

A bill allowing voters to mail in their ballots in 2020 elections now sits on Delaware Gov. John Carney’s desk after sailing through both houses of the General Assembly.

Bring it on, the governor seemed to say in a released statement.

“My position on this issue has been simple and consistent,” Carney said. “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.”

The legislation will make sure state residents can fairly and securely vote, he said.

The Senate passed the bill 18-3 Thursday in a virtual session. The House of Representatives passed the same measure June 18 with a 25-13 margin, with voting along party lines.

Voting by mail has been a hot-button issue in many states across the country as the COVID-19 pandemic shut down many normal activities. While more than 30 states already allow it, other states are battling to institute it for first time.

Delaware’s legislation, introduced by House Majority Leader Valerie Longhurst (D-Bear), only OKs voting by mail in 2020 elections. She and others said it was important to pass the bill this year, because there are federal funds available that would pay for the election materials because they are connected to COVID-19.

Republican Anthony Delcollo (R-Elsmere) spoke directly to people watching the live-streaming of the session: ““I do want to emphasize to those listening at home that although I think the bill we have in front of us have some flaws. I nonetheless agree that the overarching goal here is to make sure we honor a fundamental right.”

Some of those issues, he said, included some residents possibly getting ballots meant for someone else due to address issues, waste which could have been decreased by expanding “the manner in which folks request ballots” and fraud concerns raised by other senators.

Sen. Colin Bonini (R-Dover), who voted against the measure, said the bill could impact Delawareans in ways not otherwise considered before the COVID-19 pandemic hit the first state.

“With the changes comes potential consequences that we probably would not have had without the idea of mailing everybody a ballot, including the seven percent that don’t have valid addresses,” he said. “The reality is that with this bill we are opening the potential for fraud and I’m sure my colleagues are going to say that’s not the case.”

As in the House debate, Delaware Election Commissioner Anthony J. Albence was called on by senators to explain the process of mail-in votes. It will greatly mimic the absentee voting process. He agreed that some fraud could be possible, but the Department of Elections is doing everything it can to avoid that eventuality.

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