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Election protection volunteer program launches in Delaware ahead of September primaries

A red and white sign with an arrow pointing towards doors that says "Polling Place"
Roman Battaglia
Delaware Public Media

Volunteer election protection teams will be at some Delaware polling sites during the September primaries – as Delawareans adjust to new voting rules, including same-day registration.

The nonpartisan volunteer teams are a project of the national watchdog group Common Cause, which has organized election protection programs elsewhere for nearly two decades.

Common Cause Delaware Director Claire Snyder-Hall says the goal is to advocate for voters and resolve issues that arise at the polls. She adds that the effort is particularly important as Delawareans adjust to changes in state elections – most notably the addition of same-day voter registration.

If poll workers, partisan poll watchers or advocacy groups are unaware of state voting laws or otherwise impede legal voting, Common Cause volunteers plan to intervene and contact state election officials. “

We can deal with problems if there are problems with party-oriented watchers or Department of Elections poll workers," Snyder-Hall said. We’re independent and nonpartisan so we can advocate for voters.” Her organization is working with Delaware’s Department of Elections to coordinate the effort.

But Snyder-Hall says they may not find enough volunteers by September to staff each of the state’s more than 400 polling sites.

“I know that it’s unrealistic to think that we can get a full raft of volunteers at every polling station," she said, "so we’re starting with the primary and look at some of the races and think about which ones might have problems, and then we’re going to have a priority list of polls on election day.”

She says that means some volunteers may be stationed at polling sites outside of their home precincts.

Common Cause Delaware is casting a wide net for volunteers, including through email lists of partner organizations and face-to-face recruitment.

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