May 20, 2024
New vote-by-mail and same-day voter registration laws were deemed unconstitutional by the Delaware Supreme Court on Friday, striking down changes that state Democrats hoped would improve voter turnout ahead of the midterm elections.

New vote-by-mail and same-day voter registration laws were deemed unconstitutional by the Delaware Supreme Court on Friday, striking down changes that state Democrats hoped would improve voter turnout ahead of the midterm elections.

The decision came after justices heard arguments in the case that centered on whether the state’s constitution would allow all registered voters to cast a ballot through the mail and whether allowing people to register to vote on Election Day is allowed by provisions within the state constitution.

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The court determined that the vote-by-mail law “impermissibly expands the categories of absentee voters identified” in the state constitution. The same-day registration law conflicts with the registration periods outlined in the constitution, the justices wrote in a three-page ruling. A more formal opinion will follow, according to the Associated Press

When it comes to voting registration, the state constitution declares the registration period for a general election cannot begin more than 120 days or less than 60 days before an election. It also cannot end more than 20 days or less than 10 days before an election.

“I am very pleased the court recognized that the language of the constitution really matters,” said Jane Brady, Delaware’s Republican Party chairwoman and former attorney general. “This is a win for the rule of law.”

The state constitution also states that people can vote absentee if they are unable to go to polls on Election Day because of public service or business conflicts or if people have physical disabilities, are sick, are on vacation, or have a conflict for religious reasons. Those who need to help people under those circumstances are also excused from voting in person.

“Unfortunately, the Supreme Court’s decision reinforces that our previous efforts to amend Delaware’s constitution for voting is more important now than ever,” House Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf and Majority Leader Valerie Longhurst said in a prepared statement.

Although Delaware was planning on sending mail ballots to voters on Oct. 10, that has now been put on pause, and residents must register to vote by Oct. 15, according to the Delaware News Journal.

The vote-by-mail bill was introduced after Democratic lawmakers failed to win Republican support to amend the constitution. Constitutional amendments require a two-thirds vote by each chamber in two consecutive general assemblies. Although it passed in one session, it failed in the second. Both bills were passed by state lawmakers in June and signed by Gov. John Carney (D) in July.

A spokeswoman for Carney told the Delaware news outlet the governor was “disappointed” in the court’s ruling.

“The governor’s position has been simple and consistent,” the spokeswoman said. “We should make it easier — not harder — for all eligible Delawareans to vote and participate in our democratic process.”

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The ruling comes a month before the midterm elections, set for Nov. 8, and as the state’s Department of Elections prepared to send mail ballots to voters on Oct. 10. However, the ruling means voters now have to apply for an absentee ballot by Oct. 15 or vote at the polls in person.

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