Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Delaware Senate passes same-day voter registration bill

Delaware Public Media

A bill allowing Delawareans to register to vote on election day is headed to the Governor’s desk after passing in the Senate.

State Rep. Sherry Dorsey Walker’s bill passed the State Senate yesterday (Wed). It eliminates the current voter registration deadline two Saturdays before an election.

The measure is part of a broader effort by Democratic lawmakers to increase voting access, joining a 2021 law that automatically registers anyone receiving a new driver’s license to vote, and a bill passed by the Senate last week that would allow Delawareans to vote by mail.

But Senate Republicans argue the same-day registration bill opens an opportunity for bad actors to fraudulently vote in districts where they don’t reside. To demonstrate, state Sen. Brian Pettyjohn handed each of his colleagues a counterfeit phone bill.

“If you read the bill, all you need is a copy of a utility bill with your name and address on it," he said. "As each of you are going to get on your desks, it’s a copy of a utility bill – a Comcast bill – with my name on it and your home address.”

Pettyjohn argues the bill would allow him to register to vote using one of those fake documents. An amendment proposing votes from same-day registrants be treated as provisional ballots until the voter’s identity and address are verified did not pass.

But voting rights advocates celebrated the bill's passage as a step forward for Delaware.

"This bill will benefit all Delawareans, like those who work multiple jobs, manage multiple priorities, deal with a health issue, balance child care or elder care, among many other things," said Meera Devotta, the voter campaign manager for the ACLU of Delaware.
"These voters will soon be able to cast a ballot without worrying about missing an arbitrary registration deadline."

If Gov. John Carney signs the bill, Delaware will be the 23rd U.S. state or territory with same day registration.

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