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How to vote in Delaware's presidential primary Tuesday

Delaware Public Media

Delaware’s presidential primary is finally here—after being pushed back twice because of the coronavirus. 

Polls are open the usual times—7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday, July 7. A limited number of polling places will be open, but voters can go to any in their county. A list of polling places can be found on the Delaware Department of Elections’ website


Voters will use the new touchscreen voting machines the state got last spring. Delaware Election Commissioner Anthony Albence said during a web forum hosted by the University of Delaware’s Center for Disabilities Studies late last month that the machines are more accessible.


“We have the ability to display in large fonts. We have the ability for contrast,” he said. “The universal consul voting device that’s … available in every polling place, they have a lot of tactile items on them as well as braille, raised edges, different shaped buttons. It also has an input for other assistive devices like sip and puff that we’ve never had previously.”


The state is seeing record absentee voting this election — after Gov. John Carney expanded one of the permissible absentee excuses because of the virus, effectively allowing every registered Democrat or Republican voter to return their ballot by mail, fax or email for the presidential primary.


Jill Itzkowitz, who leads the Delaware League of Women Voters’ elections and voting committee, says this has caused some confusion.


“Once you read the ballot, it really scares people because the ballot itself doesn’t say anything about COVID-19,” she told Delaware Public Media last week.


Still, as of Thursday more than 46,800 voters had already returned absentee ballots— nearly ten times the number that did so in the 2016 presidential primary, according to the Department of Elections. More than 77,000 voters had requested them. 


The deadline for the Department of Elections to send absentee ballots to voters has passed. But voters can still deliver a ballot to their Department of Elections County Office until 8 p.m. Tuesday. Voters who requested electronic ballot delivery can also return their ballots by fax or email, with an encryption option, until 8 p.m.

Those voting absentee under the expanded “sick or physically disabled” excuse have also intermittently had access to a controversial internet-based voting platform the state is piloting. 


For a time, voters could mark and return their ballots entirely through the OmniBallot system made by Democracy Live. More than 2,700 voters did so before the Department of Elections quietly dropped the pilot in mid-June after additional security concerns were raised. 


But Albence announced during the UD forum on June 24 that the state had restored the option for voters to mark their ballots through the OmniBallot system, which is considered more accessible for some voters with disabilities. Electronic return through the system is no longer an option.


A report by MIT and University of Michigan researchers last month concluded that using OmniBallot for electronic ballot return poses a “severe risk” to election security. They also found concerns with voter data privacy. Democracy Live receives sensitive personal information, such as the voter’s identity, ballot selections and browser fingerprint, which the researchers argue could be used to target political ads or disinformation campaigns. This data is collected when voters mark their ballots digitally in the system, the researchers found, regardless of whether they return them through the system or by mail, email or fax.

But Albence said during the UD forum that the Department of Elections consulted with the authors of the study and the state’s Chief Information Security Officer before reinstating the option. “We did decide that we could resume use of the system. We are able to do so making some additional security enhancements to the system.”

Albence said his department is looking to make additional security enhancements for the fall elections. “Our priority always is to balance … availability, convenience, accessibility with security,” he said. 

Delaware is one of the last states to hold its presidential primary this year. New Jersey’s presidential primary is also Tuesday. Louisiana’s election is later this week, and Connecticut’s election is scheduled for early next month. 

Both former vice president Joe Biden and President Donald Trump have secured the delegates necessary to become their respective parties’ presumptive nominees. The general election is Nov. 3.

Sophia Schmidt is a Delaware native. She comes to Delaware Public Media from NPR’s Weekend Edition in Washington, DC, where she produced arts, politics, science and culture interviews. She previously wrote about education and environment for The Berkshire Eagle in Pittsfield, MA. She graduated from Williams College, where she studied environmental policy and biology, and covered environmental events and local renewable energy for the college paper.
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