A bill to allow no-excuse absentee voting in Delaware now goes to the full Senate. (Delaware Department of Elections)

No-excuse absentee voting bill passes Senate committee

Sam HautGovernment, Headlines

A bill to allow no-excuse absentee voting in Delaware now goes to the full Senate. (Delaware Department of Elections)

A bill to allow no-excuse absentee voting in Delaware now goes to the full Senate. (Delaware Department of Elections)

The Senate Executive Committee on Wednesday privately advanced a bill, with four members in favor, that allows for no-excuse absentee voting in Delaware, joining 35 other states and the District of Columbia.

Senate Bill 3, sponsored by Sen. Darius Brown, D-Wilmington, would amend Delaware’s constitution to allow absentee voting for any reason. However, voters must sign an oath or affirmation saying they are free from improper influence before voting.

Currently, someone must have a disability, be sick, have a religious exemption or have other reasons for not being able to vote in person on election day.

The bill has 16 additional sponsors and cosponsors, all Democrats, with Sens. Marie Pinkney, D-Bear, and Elizabeth Lockman, D-Wilmington, saying during the committee hearing that they’d like to be added as sponsors.

A fiscal note is not required for the bill, which goes to the full Senate for consideration.

A two-thirds majority of the Legislature has to vote for it because it will amend the Delaware constitution.

The Senate is more than two-thirds Democrat, the House slightly less.

Reactions to absentee voting

Claire Snyder Hall, executive director of Common Cause Delaware, said that the fewer barriers to voting, the better. 

“Voters should not have to provide the government with an excuse to vote safely from home,” Hall said. “The COVID crisis helped us all understand that today, voting in person on election day just doesn’t work for most Americans. All around the country, other states did what Delaware did, people were allowed to vote absentee during the pandemic, and the results were phenomenal.”

Delaware had previously tried to implement no-excuse mail-in voting through Senate Bill 320, which was signed into law last July. But that bill was ruled unconstitutional by the Delaware Supreme Court in October 2022 in the case Higgin v. Albence, thus necessitating the change to the Delaware constitution.

Related: Delaware Supreme Court explains decision to overturn vote-by-mail

“Research has found that there is an approval rating of 64% in favor of this approach,” said Linda Barnett, representing the nonpartisan League of Women Voters of Delaware. 

“Surprisingly, research has found that neither party particularly benefits or is hurt by this approach. The percentage of voters in both parties was just about the same. There are only 15 states that require this kind of excuse for voting, and it’s time for Delaware to get out of that group.”

“This law would allow the dream of America to become more true every time, ” said Charito Calvachi-Mateyko, co-chair of the Delaware Hispanic Commission and a native of Ecuador.

“Ecuador was not the beacon of democracy in the world,” Calvachi-Mateyko said, but its election day was “a celebration to see our neighbors and love each other no matter how different opinions we have. That is how I embraced this country.” 

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