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State House passes same-day voter registration bill

Roman Battaglia
Delaware Public Media

Delaware residents are a step closer to being able to register to vote on Election day after bill allowing same-day registration cleared the state House this week.

The bill’s sponsor, State Rep. Sherry Dorsey Walker (D-Wilmington), says the move will increase voter turnout, noting that voter turnout in 2018 was seven percent higher on average in the 20-plus states allowing same-day registration.

House lawmakers also approved an amendment to the bill allowing use of a broader range of documents to prove voter identity and residency when registering.

“Whether it’s a tax bill, or something proving that you live at that specific place at which you’re trying to vote, those documents can be used for you to register to vote," Dorsey Walker said.

Republicans raised some concerns voters could use utility bills from multiple properties to vote in more than one district. Republicans offered an amendment to set aside same-day registrants’ votes as provisional ballots, which State Rep. Bryan Shupe (R-Milford) said would give election officials time to verify voters' eligibility and whether they had already voted elsewhere.

“It allows for the Department of Elections to research and figure out if that person is who they say they are," he said.

The amendment failed, though Dorsey Walker argues the measure wasn't necessary because recent state funding — namely for an electronic registration system to replace the pen-and-paper registrations that the state previously relied on — enables election officials to check voter eligibility at the polling site.

“The Department of Elections already has the necessary resources to check if a person has already voted," she said.

The bill passed 24-13, with only one Republican – State Rep. Lyndon Yearick (R-Camden) – joining his Democratic colleagues in support of the bill.

Meanwhile, State Senator Kyle Evans Gay (D-Talleyville) introduced legislation on Friday to create a vote-by-mail option for Delawareans.

Paul Kiefer comes to Delaware from Seattle, where he covered policing, prisons and public safety for the local news site PubliCola.