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Delaware House passes legislation expanding voting rights

Delaware Public Media

Delaware House Democrats are pushing for an expansion of voting rights in the First State with a pair of bills passed last week.

Legislation sponsored by State Rep. David Bentz (D-Christiana) would allow Delawareans to vote in-person at least 10 days early for state and some local elections, including for city of Wilmington offices.

House attorney Ron Smith argues the bill violates the Delaware Constitution regarding absentee voting.

But Bentz disagrees with that interpretation.

“This is not filling out a form saying ‘I will not be in town on Election Day’ making some sort of declaration that you will be unable to attend your polling place on Election Day and voting absentee," he said. "They’re different forms of voting.”

The bill passed along party lines. If approved, it wouldn’t take effect until 2022.

Democrats also approved legislation sponsored by House Majority Whip John Viola (D-Newark) allowing same day voter registration for primary and general elections.

Viola said lawmakers should encourage more Delawareans to vote like some other states have.

“Currently 18 states plus District of Columbia have same day legislation," he said. "About four years ago, I ran a piece of legislation - went through this chamber, same day, at that point in time there were 12 states.”

House Republicans expressed concerns about possible voter fraud and added burdens for polling place workers.

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