It’s been over 20 years since Delaware’s election laws have been updated, but that could soon change if a pair of bills is passed.
Thursday, Gov. Jack Markell, D-Del., House Speaker Robert Gilligan, D-Sherwood, and Sen. President Pro Tempore, Anthony DeLuca, D-Varlano, introduced two bills to reform and modernize Delaware’s election laws.
According to legislators, one of the bills, the Delaware Elections Disclosure Act, will close a loophole under existing law by requiring prompt reporting of third party spending on advertisements during an election. The act would also enhance disclaimer requirements, which means ads must state that additional information about the purchasing party may be found on the Commissioner of Elections’ website.
“The public has the right to know when people are trying to influence elections, and our campaign laws in Delaware have not kept up with the significant changes in the way the elections are waged and when outside groups spend money to try to influence an election, they ought to be disclosing where they are getting their money and who they are,” said Gov. Markell.
“Today in this bill, the people that we are requiring to report never really had to report, the public never saw what was intervening in a particular local election or statewide election. We’re not restricting the organization’s right to spend their money; they have the right to spend it. What we’re requiring them to do is report it, the source of their income, and who they represent from within 24 hours of the time these ads take place,” said Sen. President DeLuca.
As for the second bill, which is being called the “companion bill” if such information isn’t reported in a timely manner, the penalty for filing late reports will be $50 per day opposed to $50 a month.
Last week, Gov. Markell, Gilligan and DeLuca introduced Senate Bill 185 to promote a more open government, requiring lobbyists to specifically identify each piece of legislation, each area of the budget or the bond bill, or each proposed state agency regulation they are lobbying to change. The reporting by lobbyists, as well as Delaware campaign finances, will be done electronically and displayed on a public website.
“These are first steps; they are very important first steps because we’re modernizing the computer system as it required in last week’s bill. We’re making it online reporting, we’re making it searchable, and we’re making it available to the public so this is quite an initiative to get this done,” DeLuca said.
Input from the Common Cause, the Brennan Center for Justice, and the State Commissioner of Elections influenced the Delaware Elections Act, which could go into effect in June of 2013, if all goes well.