Gov. John Carney has moved Delaware's presidential primary election to June 2, as well as suspended residential foreclosures and evictions during the outbreak of the new coronavirus in a sixth update to his State of Emergency declaration released Tuesday.
The order goes into effect 8 a.m. Wednesday and will remain in effect until May 15 or until officials determine the public health threat is eliminated.
“Delawareans have a basic, fundamental right to vote,” said Gov. Carney in a statement Tuesday. "Today’s order will preserve that right and allow Delawareans to vote by absentee ballot in the presidential primary on June 2."
Delaware's presidential primary was previously scheduled for April 28. Several other states have also pushed back their presidential primary elections because of the outbreak, some at the last minute.
The order also delays school board elections scheduled for May 12 to June 16.
It designates social distancing due to COVID-19 as a valid reason to vote by absentee ballot, by expanding the qualification of “sick or physically disabled” in state code to include any voter who is asymptomatic but abiding by CDC and state Division of Public Health self-quarantine guidelines – or is social distancing to avoid potential exposure to COVID-19.
Carney said the other measures in the order are "essential to help support Delawareans – especially our most vulnerable neighbors – as this situation evolves."
The order states that "enforcement of eviction orders for residential premises is contrary to the interest of preserving public health and ensuring that individuals remain in their homes during the public health emergency."
Residential eviction actions are suspended under the order, and landlords are prevented from charging late fees or interest during the State of Emergency. The order extends deadlines in eviction actions that began before the State of Emergency started until the 31st day after it ends. The rest of Delaware's Landlord Tenant Code remains in effect, and Carney's order notes that no provision of the State of Emergency "shall be construed as relieving any individual of the obligation to pay rent or to comply with any other obligation that an individual may have under tenancy."
Residential foreclosures are similarly suspended, and deadlines in ongoing foreclosure actions are similarly extended.
Tuesday’s update to the order also prevents utility companies from terminating service to residences or charging fees for late payments. The types of utilites covered include electric, natural gas, propane, telephone, water, wastewater, cable television and internet. The order states this provision is necessary to "reduce the threat to human health caused by COVID-19 in Delaware, protect the health and safety of utility employees and customers, and save lives."
It prevents insurers from lapsing or terminating a health, life, disability, property or car insurance policy because a person fails to pay a premium during the State of Emergency, if that person was laid off as a result of conditions imposed by the State of Emergency or public health emergency. The protection also applies to businesses that were required to close or significantly reduce their business as a result of the conditions.
"This is an extremely challenging economic situation for many of our neighbors, and we need to do what we can to support them," Carney said.
Carney's emergency order has the force of law. Failure to comply with the provisions of the State of Emergency constitutes a criminal offense. Under the order, state and local law enforcement agencies are authorized to enforce the provisions.
A petition circulated on Change.org calling for Gov. Carney to enact a "moratorium on all evictions, foreclosures, and utility cutoffs indefinitely, as well as a suspension of all rent, mortgage and utility payments for the next 2 months, including any late fees associated with missing payments," had received roughly 3,000 signatures as of Tuesday afternoon when the updated emergency order was released.
This story has been updated.