A lawsuit challenging early voting in Delaware based on a conflict with the state’s constitution was filed Jan. 24 in Delaware Chancery Court. Filed by former Attorney General M. Jane Brady’s legal group on behalf of an election inspector, the lawsuit states that Delaware’s early voting laws, set to take effect in 2022, conflict with and violate the Delaware Constitution because those laws expand the administration of the general election beyond its constitutionally designated day. Per the state constitution, the state’s general election is to be held on a Tuesday after the first Monday in the month of November for an election year. Brady, however, said provisions in the constitution only apply to the general election, not primary elections or special elections, such as the one planned March 5 for the 4th District representative seat. “The language of the constitution itself and court decisions make clear that the provisions we feel are being violated only apply to the general election,” she said. Permanent absentee voting law also violates the constitution, according to the lawsuit. “[Statutes] grant eligibility to vote by absentee ballot indefinitely, and without consideration of the applicant’s eligibility at each subsequent election, as required by the constitution,” the suit states.
Delaware Republicans block bill to create no-excuse absentee voting | Sarah Gamard/Delaware News Journal
Despite many of them previously supporting the idea, Republicans have blocked a bill to allow no-excuse absentee voting in Delaware elections. They voted against House Bill 75, which would let voters cast absentee ballots without having to give an excuse for why they can’t do it in person, during a Thursday vote in the Democrat-controlled House. It’s the second time that lawmakers have voted on the measure in the past few years. In Delaware, constitutional amendments require lawmakers to pass one bill for two consecutive legislative sessions, which span two years. Nine Republicans voted for the bill in 2019, whereas none of them voted for it on Thursday. Constitutional amendments also require a two-thirds vote, which Democrats don’t have on their own in the 41-person House. They needed 28 votes, meaning two Republicans would have had to join all 26 Democrats in support. “From 2019 until now, nothing has changed about the efficacy, the security of absentee voting in Delaware and nationwide,” bill sponsor Rep. David Bentz, D-Christiana, said just before the vote. “The only thing that has changed, unfortunately, is the rhetoric around it.”
Delaware: Vote by mail coming for fall elections; advocate reports confusion over presidential primary options | Sophia Schmidt/Delaware First Media
Gov. John Carney signed the vote by mail legislation Wednesday. It allows all voters to return their ballots by mail without a traditional absentee excuse through the end of this year. Under the legislation, the State Election Commissioner must mail an application to receive a mail-in ballot to every qualified, registered voter sixty days before the election. Each voter must then complete and return the application. They will then receive a ballot, envelope and instructions, to be returned by mail. No ballots can be tabulated until Election Day. Voters will still have the option to vote in person. Carney said at a virtual bill signing he sees the mail-in option as “critically important” for the elections this fall. State Rep. Valerie Longhurst sponsored the legislation in an effort to help Delawareans vote safely despite COVID-19. “This just makes it easier because we don’t know what’s going to happen in November with this pandemic, and we’re just thinking ahead and being proactive instead of being reactive,” she said in an interview Tuesday.
On Thursday, the Senate gave final approval to a bill authorizing universal voting by mail in primary, general and special elections in Delaware this year. The bill cleared the Democrat-led Senate on an 18-to-3 vote Thursday after passing the Democrat-controlled House last week on a strict party line vote. Supporters of the bill said the coronavirus epidemic justifies allowing everyone in the state to vote by mail, rather than having to go to local polling places or request an absentee ballot. Senate President Pro Tem David McBride, D-New Castle, said lawmakers have “a moral obligation” to ensure that voters can cast ballots without endangering their health.
Delaware: Election Commission Quietly Fielded An Online Voting System, But Now Is Backing Away | Sophia Schmidt/NPR
Delaware briefly deployed a controversial internet voting system recently but scrapped it amid concerns about security and public confidence. Before the online option was shuttered, voters returned more than 2,700 ballots electronically — and those votes still will be counted, according to the state, along with conventional votes in the upcoming July primary. Delaware Election Commissioner Anthony Albence said the decision to stop using the cloud-based return option was made to protect public perception of the election. “We have had no problems with the system,” said Albence. “We have confidence in the system, but we want everyone to be fully confident in anything that we do.” The coronavirus pandemic has sent election officials nationwide scrambling for creative solutions to voting problems this year, but it’s becoming clear that there remains very little appetite for new internet voting platforms as part of that conversation. After NPR reported in April that three states were moving toward statewide pilot programs to allow voters with disabilities to return their ballots over the internet, two of those states have since backed away from those plans after intense criticism from the cybersecurity community.
Delaware: Election officials back out of mobile voting weeks before primary | Benjamin Freed/StateScoop
Delaware election officials backed off a plan to offer an online ballot-return method to voters in its primary next month, citing a recent report from security experts that found that the platform being used is vulnerable to hacking that could expose or manipulate how a person’s ballot was cast without being detected by either voters or the vote counters. The platform, OmniBallot, allows election administrators to send ballots to hard-to-reach voters, like deployed military members, civilians living abroad and voters with disabilities, giving them the option to return their completed ballots through a variety of methods, including postal mail, email and fax. But Delaware was also one of a handful of states that planned to test out OmniBallot’s ability to transmit ballots online, which raised concern with some election security analysts who argue that the internet is a dangerous venue for voting. In a June 7 paper, J. Alex Halderman, a computer scientist at the University of Michigan, and Michael Specter, a doctoral student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, wrote that OmniBallot “is vulnerable to vote manipulation by malware on the voter’s device and by insiders or other attackers” who can compromise software made by OmniBallot’s developer, Democracy Live.
Delaware: State postpones presidential primary for second time amid coronavirus | Sarah Gamard/Delaware News Journal
Delaware’s presidential primary election has been postponed for a second time. The new date for the presidential primary is Tuesday, July 7. Gov. John Carney announced the move shortly before noon on Thursday. Along with the date change, all registered Democrats and Republicans who didn’t already request an absentee ballot will now get an absentee ballot application in the mail so they can vote from home. A spokesman for Carney said the date was postponed again so that the Department of Elections can issue the applications in time. Only registered Republicans and Democrats can vote in the presidential primary, which is when they choose their respective presidential nominees. The deadline to register for this election has been pushed back to Saturday, June 13. The last day to request an absentee ballot for the presidential primary is Friday, July 3. The deadline to pick up an absentee ballot at your local elections office is now noon on July 6, which is the day before the election.
Delaware: State piloting new internet-based voting system for disabled, overseas voters | Sophia Schmidt/Delaware First Media
Delaware is piloting a new electronic ballot marking and cloud-based storage system for a limited population of voters during its presidential primary next month. So far more than 700 disabled or overseas voters have cast absentee ballots for the upcoming election using the system — which is made by Democracy Live and stored in an Amazon Web Services environment, according to State Election Commissioner Anthony Albence. A couple hundred more have used the tool to mark their ballots, then submitted them by email, mail or fax. Albence says his Department has been happy with the system’s performance so far. Last week NPR reported Delaware is the second state to try internet- or cloud-based voting for small portions of its electorate. Albence notes the state has accepted votes trasmitted over email before. Still, he rejects the term “internet voting” to describe the new Democracy Live system. Cybersecurity experts disagree. “With any system like what Delaware is doing, the entire voting system now for these voters is taking place online,” said J. Alex Halderman, a professor of computer science and engineering at University of Michigan and co-founder of an internet security company. “That means all of the risks of foreign hacking are unfortunately at play.”
Delaware: State to allow voters with disabilities to vote online in primary: report | Maggie Miller/The Hill
Delaware will allow voters with disabilities to cast their ballots online during the upcoming primary election next month, NPR reported Tuesday. The move would make Delaware the second state to allow internet voting for those with disabilities, after West Virginia. New Jersey is also considering allowing some online voting for people with disabilities or those who live overseas, according to NPR. A spokesperson for the Delaware Department of Elections did not immediately respond to The Hill’s request for comment on the report. Discussion around online voting has ramped up over the past month as in-person primary elections have been delayed or canceled due to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. Mail-in voting has also been proposed by Democratic officials and voting rights advocates who argue that voters should not have to choose between their health and their right to vote. Cybersecurity advocates have long cautioned against voting online, saying it would open up vulnerabilities that could be exploited by malicious actors to interfere in elections.
For now, at least, Delawareans are scheduled to cast their ballots for presidential candidates for the first time on June 2. The First State’s presidential primary election, originally slated for April 28, was pushed back last week due to the coronavirus outbreak. While it remains to be seen whether more delays will be needed, state officials are preparing to host the election in two months. Due to the virus, Gov. John Carney has expanded the list of reasons why someone can vote absentee and is encouraging people to do so. Election Commissioner Anthony Albence said last week Delaware expects to have the usual polling locations open but is aware there may be some alterations. “We are anticipating a limited number of changes, for example, if a facility housing a polling place chooses not to participate in light of the COVID-19 situation,” Mr. Albence wrote in an email. “We are hoping that some facilities with reservations about housing a polling place in the current situation may be open to doing so again in light of the move of the presidential primary after the expected end of the current state of emergency. In any case, if a voter’s polling place is changed, they will be notified by mail, and our information posted online will be updated accordingly.”
Delaware: Governor postpones presidential primary to June due to coronavirus | Sarah Gamard/Delaware News Journal
Delaware’s presidential primary is getting postponed due to the spread of the coronavirus. Following suit of neighboring states, Gov. John Carney on Tuesday moved Delaware’s election date to June 2. The presidential primary election is for registered Democrats and registered Republicans to choose their parties’ presidential nominees for the general election that, so far, is still scheduled for Nov. 3. The move, which came the same afternoon that Delaware health officials confirmed more than 100 cases of the coronavirus in the state, doesn’t come as a surprise because other states have also postponed their elections to the summer. Maryland, Connecticut, Rhode Island have postponed elections set for the same day. Officials in New York and Pennsylvania, which also have April 28 primary dates, are reportedly considering following suit. Other states such as Kentucky, Louisiana and Georgia have also postponed their elections. Delawareans will be able to use social distancing due to coronavirus as a valid reason to vote by absentee ballot, according to a Tuesday news release announcing the postponement.
Delaware: April primary still on, Chris Coons pushes for vote expansion | Sarah Gamard/Delaware News Journal
Delaware’s beaches and nonessential businesses have closed. The governor has ordered residents to stay home until mid-May. And coronavirus cases as of Monday have climbed to 87 in the state. But as of Monday, Delaware’s April 28 presidential primary is still a go even though other states have postponed elections because of the fast-spreading virus. State officials are discussing possible changes to the election, according to Gov. John Carney’s spokesman, Jonathan Starkey. He did not offer details. “Delawareans have a basic, fundamental right to vote, and we’re working to make sure they can stay healthy and exercise that right,” Starkey said on Monday. The state may get help from its congressional leaders through a federal bill that would mean Delawareans don’t have to show up to the polls in person if the virus is still a public health threat by that time.
Delaware: State to move ahead with primary after Maryland postponed same date | Sarah Gamard/Delaware News Journal
Delaware election officials and the Governor’s Office said Wednesday that the state still plans to move ahead with its April 28 primary after Maryland rescheduled its primary originally set for the same date. “We’re continuing to monitor the situation at this point and plan to proceed as scheduled,” said Delaware Elections Commissioner Anthony Albence, adding that his department doesn’t have the legal authority to cancel or postpone an election. The decision is ultimately up to Gov. John Carney, with guidance from Delaware Division of Public Health officials and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, according to the governor’s spokesman Jonathan Starkey. “We’re planning to allow voting to move forward, until the guidance from our health experts makes clear that we cannot hold an election due to public health risk,” Starkey wrote in a text on Wednesday.
On Sunday, the final day of the 2019 legislative session, Governor Carney signed legislation into law that seeks to increase voter participation in Delaware elections by allowing early, in-person voting. House Bill 38, sponsored by Representative David Bentz, will allow registered Delaware voters to cast their ballots at polling places up to 10 days before Election Day. The measure will make it easier for all Delawareans to participate in elections. “Voting is our most fundamental right as Delawareans and Americans,” said Governor Carney. “Regardless of zip code or party affiliation, we should make it easier for all Delawareans to cast their ballots, choose their elected officials, and participate in our democratic process. Thank you to Representative Bentz and other members of the General Assembly for their continued partnership, and for their leadership on this issue.”
Voters heading to the school board elections next month will find something new: updated voting machines, the first major change in more than 20 years to the way the First State casts ballots. Its time had come, State Election Commissioner Elaine Manlove said. The old machines, from 1996, were obsolete. “The process actually started a few years ago,” she said. “The ballots in the old machines were using Windows XP, and that’s not supported anymore.” Realizing the need, the General Assembly in 2016 formed a Voting Equipment Selection Task Force with Manlove as its chairwoman. Manlove was tasked to research and select up to five vendors for presentation to the task force by March 2017. The committee would recommend which would get a state contract. The panel, however, did not get to work until March 2017, not wrapping up until about three months later. Manlove said a lack of available appointees from the incoming Carney administration and delays by the state Senate in appointing its members to the panel accounted for the lack of progress. Before the task force released any information on the vendors, Delaware’s nonpartisan Common Cause group published the bid documents online and, at the same time, advocated for a paper ballot system it argued was less expensive and not subject to some of the security woes of other electronic systems.
More than half of all registered voters in Delaware cast a ballot in November — the highest turnout for a midterm election in the state in at least two decades. Even more voters are expected to cast ballots in 2020 when President Donald Trump and Gov. John Carney will be running for a second term. But some say the state’s voting laws are actually keeping eligible voters from participating in state and federal elections. After multiple failed attempts in recent years, House Democrats now believe they are just weeks away from enacting a trio of reforms designed to remove some of those hurdles, as they see it.
Delaware lawmakers on Monday approved a $13 million contract for Election Systems & Software to supply roughly 1,500 of its new ExpressVote XL voting machines, the state’s first new voting system in decades. But some watchdogs are questioning whether state officials chose the best equipment when they chose to purchase a new and largely unproven voting system. “They had it in their minds to choose this system regardless of the facts about it,” said Jennifer Hill, director of Common Cause Delaware. “This system is brand new so we don’t know what to expect.” Those claims did not dissuade lawmakers Monday from approving a $13 million contract to buy a fleet of new voting machines, along with new systems for registering voters, checking them in at their polling places and counting absentee ballots.
Delaware is set to have new voting machines for the 2020 presidential election, with the goal of putting them in place by May’s school board elections. A task force given the responsibility of approving a contract with a vendor to replace the current machines unanimously approved the selection Tuesday, although the choice must still go before the Joint Committee on Capital Improvement. That committee will meet Monday, enabling lawmakers to review and vote on the selection of Election Systems & Software. If the contract is approved, the company will provide machines and other products, including a new database application, to the state. The cost has not been publicly released and will remain private unless the contract is finalized. Officials have up to $13 million to spend, with $3 million of that coming from the federal government and the rest coming from state funds allocated in the capital bond bill.
A task force charged with finding new voting machines for Delaware made its decision Tuesday. The task force voted unanimously to award the contract to Election Systems and Software. Its voting machines creates a paper ballot that it marks and tabulates for the voter. But some advocates like Stan Merriman criticized the task force, saying its work lacked transparency and it failed to consult outside experts. “Instead the task force bill treated this historic event as just another routine purchase of machines, failing to imagine a different future,” he said. “Again, machines over methods.” Jennifer Hill with Common Cause Delaware says other states using ESS’s machines have experienced some issues. Some advocates were also upset the new system doesn’t include paper ballots that voters fill out themselves or a vote by mail system.
Common Cause Delaware has posted a link to bid data the First State received to replace its current voting machines. Six vendors, Electec Election Services, Dominion Knowlink, Election Systems & Software, Everyone Counts, Hart InterCivic and Tenex Software Solutions submitted bids. Jennifer Hill of Common Cause says some of these companies have had problems in other states. She said a city in Kansas using an ES&S system faced issues during a primary last week. “There were election night reporting delays that they could not explain,” she said. “So, you know those are the things that we hope will be looked at before our you know our state invests $8 or $10 or $13 million in a voting system.”
Common Cause Delaware has been waiting months to learn more about the vendors vying to provide the state with new voting machines and it was told Wednesday that wait will continue. Office of Management and Budget Director Mike Jackson said last month the bid data would be released by now. But an OMB spokesman says they are still reviewing and redacting documents and hope to release the info by the end of the month. This comes just as U.S House Democrats release a report saying Delaware has one of the five most insecure voting systems in the country. The other states are Georgia, Louisiana, New Jersey and South Carolina.
Legislation allowing early voting in Delaware has died in the state Senate, more than a week after it was declared to have passed the House despite falling short of the two-thirds vote requirement. The Democratic Senate majority leader announced late Saturday that the bill would not be considered on the final night of this year’s legislative session because it did not have enough votes.
The Delaware House of Representatives on Thursday approved two bills that would expand voting rights by allowing early voting and same-day registration. Both bills passed solely on Democratic support. They now go to the Senate. House Bill 400, which passed 22-18 with one absent, would allow an individual to register to vote on Election Day at a polling place. A person would be required to provide identification or another document displaying his or her name and address, such as a utility bill, paycheck, bank statement or government document. Approved by a 25-15 margin, with one member absent, House Bill 90 would let Delawareans cast ballots in elections for state, county and Wilmington offices “at least” 10 days before the actual date.
Delaware: Delaware may award voting machine contract before releasing bid info | Delaware First Media
The Delaware Office of Management and Budget has requested $10 million for new state voting machines. But the state has not released any bid information on the vendors competing for the contract. OMB previously said it would keep the info private until it awarded the contract. Common Cause Delaware decried the lack in transparency and the Delaware Attorney General sided with them last month, saying OMB has to release the bid rankings.
Democratic lawmakers last week introduced legislation that would make Delaware the 19th state with same-day voter registration. Under the bill, Delawareans could sign up to vote and cast a ballot on the same day. “Our goal as a society should be to encourage more people to be part of the electoral process, not less,” main sponsor House Majority Whip John Viola, D-Newark, said in a statement. “Right now, we have an arbitrary deadline to register to vote of three weeks before an election. “Some people, often young people or those who just moved to the state, don’t think to register to vote until it’s right before the election, and by then it’s too late. Election Day registration has been around for decades and is proven to safely and effectively increase voter turnout, so it’s time for Delaware to take this step forward.”
A new house bill introduced Wednesday in Dover would make it possible to register to vote on Election Day, making The First State the 19th in the union to adopt Same Day Registration. Under HB 400, a person could register to vote at his or her polling place on the day of a presidential, state primary, general or special election. All they would have to do is show a valid government issued photo ID, a current utility bill, a bank statement or other government document that displays name and current address.
As the investigation of Russia’s role in the 2016 Presidential election continues, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) finally announced which states experienced hacking attempts within the last year. Among those targeted was Delaware. With only three Electoral College votes and a consistent Democratic voting record in the last seven presidential elections, it is bizarre to see Delaware in the company of swing states like Wisconsin, Virginia, and Pennsylvania. However, unlike Virginia, which is updating its voting system to ensure election security, Delaware is updating its voting system for a very different reason: efficiency.
Delaware will put out a request for bids on new voting machines by the end of month. Delaware’s current voting machines have been in use since 1996. The state has about 1,600 voting machines. Considered state of art when they were purchased more than twenty years ago, they’re now outdated. A 2015 report by the Brennan Center for Justice notes that the machine models Delaware uses are no longer being made and have outlived their expected lifespan. … Manlove adds Delaware will probably have to wait until 2020 for the new voting machines because the purchasing process will take some time.
It’s Nov. 6, 2018. Election Day. More than 100,000 Delaware voters have already cast their ballots with just one hour until polls close when suddenly the state’s election system goes down. Software experts are able to quickly restore it, but it’s too late: All the votes have been wiped out. The system failure has invalidated votes all across the state, and now the integrity of the election is at stake. While unlikely, this scenario is possible, and it’s a big part of the reason why advocacy groups are urging state officials to fund the purchase of new voting machines. Delaware has about 1,600 Danaher ELECTronic 1242 voting machines, purchased in 1995. Those machines were state of the art 22 years ago, but they’re now outdated and, according to some, in desperate need of replacement. “We need a voting system that inspires public trust,” said Jennifer Hill.
Delaware voters soon will cast their ballots on new voting machines. But exactly when – and what those machines will look like – remains to be seen. A state task force created last year to study the issue is still debating what bells and whistles the new voting machines should feature – four months after it was supposed to make a final recommendation to the Delaware General Assembly. … First deployed in 1996, Delaware’s 1,600 voting machines are among the oldest in the nation and have outlived their expected lifespan, creating a growing list of potential problems. The computer operating system used to create electronic ballots, for instance, is no longer supported by Microsoft, meaning security updates are no longer available. The outdated equipment also precludes the General Assembly from adopting the kind of no-excuse early voting currently used by 34 other states. And Delaware is now one of five states using voting machines that never let voters see a paper copy of their ballot to ensure its accuracy.