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State House passes election bills

Roman Battaglia
Delaware Public Media

House lawmakers were more united than state Senators in their vote on two elections bills Tuesday.


They passed Senate Bill 5 almost unanimously - sending it to Gov. Carney.  It will register eligible voters when they interact with the DMV.


The lone “no” vote was State Rep. Richard Collins (R-Millsboro), who says not all eligible voters should be automatically registered.


“I just think in the greatest country in the world with the most opportunity and the most benefits to being a citizen — I think there should be some minimal level of responsibility required to be a decision maker,” Collins said.


During Senate debate, the bill’s supporters pointed out this system only registers voters.  It doesn’t compel them to vote. 


Turnout in the last general election was only about 70 percent of registered voters.


House lawmakers also passed a bill seeking to move the state’s primary date to match the presidential primary in April.


State Rep. Stephanie Bolden’s (D-East Wilmington) bill has cleared the House three times before, but never passed the state Senate.

Credit Delaware General Assembly

 Bolden says it's a critical step to help boost turnout in state primary elections.


“And I think this is an important aspect of the voting rights laws and voter suppression that we can eliminate and getting more people to vote and understand — because the confusion is a lot of what was entailed in terms of the lack of voting, the 18 percent we got statewide in 2017, etc,” Bolden said.


A few factors drove unusually high turnout in last year’s primary — no-excuse absentee voting was allowed because of COVID-19 and the politically charged atmosphere in anticipation of the 2020 Presidential election.


Bolden says this bill was originally proposed by the Department of Elections, which wants to ease the burden it faces delivering absentee ballots in the short window between the current Sept. primary election and November’s general election.


The measure passed in a 37-4 vote. It now heads to the state Senate, where it has  faced opposition in the past from President Pro Temp David Sokola (D-Newark) and Senate Majority Leader Bryan Townsend (D-Newark/Bear).

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.