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Delaware GOP sues Department of Elections to halt vote-by-mail

Delaware Public Media

The Delaware Republican Party announced Wednesday it’s taking the Department of Elections to court over mail in voting.


The General Assembly authorized vote-by-mail for this year’s election in June. 


The lawsuit argues it could not legally unless the change is needed to continue government operation. Brady questions the need since no polling places are closing and the absentee ballot system is still functional.


Two citizens are named as plaintiffs alongside the Republican State Committee of Delaware. 


John Foltz is a resident of Dover and a farmer, the owner of Foltz Farms northwest of the city. Foltz says he’s voted absentee in the past when he worked at the polls and thinks people should use the absentee system if they have health concerns.


He’s concerned that people are receiving applications at their house for people who no longer live there, and claims there have been issues removing people from voter rolls.


Paula Manolakos is the office manager for the Republican State Committee of Delaware. Brady says both of these plaintiffs joined the lawsuit because they were concerned about the chance for voter fraud with the vote-by-mail system being implemented.


Brady emphasizes they aren't trying to keep people from voting absentee, but argue the system for voting-by-mail in Delaware was implemented poorly and is unconstitutional.


“Delaware is a small and proud state that has a history of doing things right. That includes allowing anyone who has a health concern about voting in person to vote absentee. We should continue that tradition and follow the law and the constitution and eliminate vote by mail.”


Brady accuses states that have adopted vote-by-mail of being rife with voter fraud, citing a Heritage Foundation report that tracked 1,296 cases of voter fraud. 


However, not all of those cases are related to vote-by-mail. Many are false registrations or vote tampering by political campaigns. The report also encompasses all voter fraud cases nationwide since 1982, including states without universal vote-by-mail.


Delaware has no reported cases of voter fraud according to the Heritage Foundation’s report.


State Election commissioner Anthony Albence says Delaware's system is designed to prevent the fraud that Brady describes.


“We also have a number of safeguards in the system that absolutely ensure there is only ever one active ballot per voter at any time.”


Albence declined to comment specifically on the lawsuit citing the pending litigation.


Brady herself said there has been no fraud in Delaware’s Absentee voting system. She’s more concerned with the fact that some people have received vote-by-mail applications for people who no longer live at that address.


“We haven’t had any fraud with absentee and the real difference between absentee voting and vote-by-mail is that you have a registered voter requesting a ballot to vote absentee. You have unsolicited applications for ballots being mailed to incorrect and inaccurate mailing addresses all over the state in this vote by mail system.”


Albence stresses mail-in voting is secure. He points out absentee votes and mail-in voting ballots are delivered and treated the same way with systems in place to ensure only one ballot is counted per registered voter.


Albence also says voting-by-mail is just another option for voters, all polling places will remain open, people who are eligible to vote absentee can continue to do so through that process, but voters will also have the option to vote-by-mail as well.


States with vote-by-mail systems often achieve higher rates of turnout in elections. In Colorado, 77 percent of voting age citizens cast a vote in the 2016 presidential election, higher than the national turnout rate of 63 percent according to the U.S. Election Assistance Commision.


Brady is asking the courts to expedite the process to ensure a judgment is passed before the next month’s primary.

Roman Battaglia grew up in Portland, Ore, and now reports for Delaware Public Media as a Report For America corps member. He focuses on politics, elections and legislation activity at the local, county and state levels.
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