Delaware lawmakers unveil election reform legislation

 Gov. Jack Markell joins lawmakers at the bill package's unveiling (Shana O'Malley/for NewsWorks)

Gov. Jack Markell joins lawmakers at the bill package's unveiling (Shana O'Malley/for NewsWorks)

Gov. Jack Markell joined Delaware lawmakers on Thursday to roll out a package of bills designed to strengthen the state’s election laws.

The six bills were established following a report by the Election Law Task Force and former Chief Justice Norman E. Veasey.

“It forced us, in a good way, to focus on this really critical issue,” said Rep. Paul Baumbach, D-Newark. “Government can only work when people have trust in it, and just as the report pointed out, there are several areas where there can be distrust.”

The bills are specifically focused on campaign finance contributions, and bear similarity to legislation introduced last month by Rep. Deborah Hudson, R-Fairthorne.

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“We have made significant progress in making our campaign finance system more transparent, with more disclosure of the sources of campaign contributions than ever before,” said Markell. “The proposed legislation makes additional progress by increasing transparency improving the efficiency of our elections system, and providing the tools necessary to investigate and prosecute possible violations of Delaware’s election laws.”

The four House and two Senate bills break down as follows:

HB 302

Establishes a more efficient structure for the administration of Delaware’s campaign finance laws by consolidating the three County Boards of Election into a single State Board of Elections. HB 302 also gives the state election commissioner the authority to investigate possible violations of election laws.

SB 186

Requires that entities must disclose the name and address of one “responsible party,” i.e. someone who shares or exercises direction or control over the activities of said entity. In addition, this bill requires that the elections commissioner adopt a uniform summary of laws governing attribution of entity contributions, including examples of how the laws apply in specific cases.

HB 300

Amends the Whistleblower Protection Act to ensure that it protects employees who report and/or refuse to participate in violations of campaign finance laws. Also protected are those who participate in an investigation, hearing, trial or inquiry of a campaign finance violation.

HB 170

Establishes June 30 as an additional mandatory reporting period for political campaign committees.

HB 301

Provides that contributions from joint bank accounts will be attributed to the person signing the check, and establishes procedures for reallocation of contributions from joint bank accounts.

SB 187

Allows campaigns to return contributions mistakenly made above the legal limit.

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