NOTE: This story has been updated to add Gov. John Carney’s response.
The Delaware Court of Chancery on Monday denied the state Republican Party’s move to stop voting by mail.
The party had asked the court for an injunction to prohibit the Department of Elections from mailing vote by mail ballots for the Nov. 3 general election.
The court said in its ruling that its decision was largely based on deference to the General Assembly‘s discretion in determining the need for vote by mail.
The GOP in its filing had called the law allowing voting by mail unconstitutional.
“While we argued that the fact that every polling place will be open and therefore there was no disruption of any government operations as it related to the election on Nov. 3, the court determined that the discretion remained with the General Assembly to determine the need for an alternative means of voting other than absentee or in person,” Delaware’s Republican Party said in a press release Monday night.
Opinion on the issue of mail-in ballots, also called remote voting, is split along partisan lines. Democrats say they are needed to allow people to vote without fear of being infected by COVID-19 at a polling place. Republicans have maintained that anyone who didn’t want to vote in person could use an absentee ballot and the mail-in voting was unnecessary.
Republicans nationwide have claimed the mail-ballots could lead to widespread fraud in the general election.
“We will respect the decision of the court and fashion our get out the vote effort around vote by mail in addition to absentee and in person voting,” the GOP said in its press release.
Delaware Democratic Party Chairman Erik Raser-Schramm late Monday said in a statement, “Delawareans shouldn’t have to choose between their health and their vote and today’s Chancery Court ruling affirms they won’t be forced to this November. Today the Court ruled the General Assembly was well within its rights to extend mail voting to all Delawareans in the face of an unprecedented public health crisis.”
He said the Republic lawsuit was “a politically motivated effort to undo that legislation” and “without legal merit.”
Gov. John Carney said Tuesday during his weekly coronavirus press conference that the court made the right decision.
“The idea that we would make it somehow harder for people to vote is beyond my comprehension,” he said.
A record number of voters cast ballots in the Sept. 15 state primary, largely because of the high number of absentee and mail-in ballots. There was a record 32 percent turnout, with more than 76,000 votes cast by mail. Democrats cast 63,315 of their 121,343 ballots by absentee or by mail, and Republicans cast 13,069 of their 56,186 votes that way.
Delaware’s vote by mail law only covers elections in 2020 — which allowed the state to use federal CARES money to pay the $829,000 cost — and expires in January. Gov. John Carney last week said during his weekly COVID-19 press conference that he wanted voting by mail to continue and would encourage the Legislature to make it permanent.
The Republican lawsuit was one of three filed recently against the Delaware Department of Elections.
Still in front of the courts is an ACLU of Delaware lawsuit that seeks to ensure that absentee and vote by mail ballots are counted if they were mailed on time but are received by mail within 10 days of the election. Now, they must be received by 8 p.m. on Election Day to be counted.
On July 29, the US Postal Service warned many states, including Delaware, that voters who mail ballots for the general election should do so by Oct. 27.
Carney said during his press conference Tuesday that as of now, the 8 p.m. deadline will stand.
In another suit, Va’Shun Turner, a Wilmington councilman who lost the race to be city treasurer, filed a suit alleging “several irregularities and misconduct,” according to a copy posted online by WDEL.
Turner is concerned that polling sites were moved at the last moment, disenfranchising voters of color. He’s also worried about fraudulent ballots.