The deadline to register to vote in the November general elections is Saturday—and Democrats and Republicans are reaching out to unregistered residents.
There currently are 669,707 registered voters in Delaware, and a majority of them are Democrat.
“Our goal is to have everybody registered, and our goal is to get everybody to vote and our other goal is to get everybody to vote Democrat,” said John Daniello, chairman of the Delaware Democratic Party.
The number of total registered voters has been increasing slightly over the years with no significant changes. The numbers always fluctuate, however, as residents die or move out of the state, said State Election Commissioner Elaine Manlove.
Her department has a constant purging system that removes individuals who die or relocate, and an ongoing everyday process of adding new residents or those who recently turned 18 into the system, she said.
The Department of Elections receives most of its registrations from the Department of Motor Vehicles. The department then reaches out to eligible unregistered voters who didn’t register at the DMV.
“Before every election we get a list of eligible, but unregistered voters, we send them a postcard and explain to them how to register online,” Manlove said.
Democrats have had a significant lead over Republicans over the past several years, and the number of registered voters between parties and counties has remained steady. Currently there are 318,139 Democrats and 187,932 Republicans.
“I think the biggest reason is we’ve got the better candidates, and not only the better candidates, we’ve got the better issues,” Daniello said. “We’re proud to say we represent the middle class, and that hasn’t been disputed by the other side. And there are more in the middle class than high end of the income stream.”
New Castle County has a strong Democrat holding, beating out Republicans by more than 117,000 registered voters.
“One of the things that has hurt the Republican party in New Castle County is they haven’t had a viable alternative to the Democratic party,” said Billy Carroll, chairman of the Sussex County GOP.
“(But now) we see Republicans getting endorsements by traditional Democratic organizations, like labor unions and groups of that nature, that have given up on the fairness of the Democratic Party.”
Republicans take the edge in Sussex County, however, with more than 1,600 registered voters than Democrats. Prior to this year, Republican and Democratic voters had been relatively even.
“It used to be overwhelmingly Democrat here as well,” Carroll sad.
“We’ve had a lot of people come from the Washington D.C. area, a lot of former federal employees. For their careers they had to register as Democrats, regardless of who the president was, because the bureaucracy would not tolerate them being [Republicans]. Once they retired they felt they were able to register the way they felt.”
He added; “In other ways lifelong Democrats encourage their children to register as Republicans. In other areas lifelong Democrats feel the party has abandoned their values and they re-register as Republicans.”
Daniello said he believes the Republican party has been more successful registering people to vote in Sussex County than the Democratic Party. He also said changing demographics is part of the reason behind the increase of republicans in southern Delaware.
“The people who were in the middle class and were Democrats now are retired and are going to live their upper middle class life out in Sussex County, move to Sussex County and register Republican because they like that motto of, ‘We’re against any tax increases,’” Daniello said.
Carroll said the Republican Party has a responsibility is to find as many residents as possible who aren’t registered and get them registered. In February, the Sussex County GOP started a telephone and text campaign and have been going door to door in conjunction with their candidates.
“It was very successful, we used to be the minority party here in Sussex County and now we’re the majority,” Carroll said.
Daniello said despite the significant Democratic lead statewide, his party still is reaching out to as many new residents as possible in hopes of recruiting more registered voters.
“That number is a moving number, and people are moving out or moving in, so we’re constantly trying to keep that number up,” he said.
Manlove said Ivote.de.gov, a new online registration system, is making the process of registering to vote easier.
“It’s incredibly convenient. It’s a 24/7 service,” she said. “People can register to vote any time of day or night. And on our side it’s much better than receiving a paper application where often you can’t read the handwriting.”
Daniello said he hopes registering and voting itself will be even more convenient in the future.
“I think we have to start thinking of other ways of doing that,” he said. “The population is more mobile than it was in the past, and going to your polling place isn’t always easy anymore.”