Delaware Republicans shut out absentee voting bill

A bill removing restrictions on absentee voting in Delaware fell one vote short in the state House, after receiving no support from the state’s Republican caucus.

As it’s written now, only those who serve in the military, suffer from a physical disability, are on vacation or because of religious reasons can vote absentee.

House Majority Leader Rep. Valerie Longhurst says House Bill 20 would amend the state Constitution expanding access to absentee voting to all eligible Delaware voters.

Because each of the state’s Republican representatives voted against the no-excuses measure, Rep. Longhurst, D-Bear, called out House Republican leadership for “playing politics.”

The House majority points out election results from 2012 show absentee votes do not necessarily favor the majority party or an incumbent on a national scale. Locally, results show both parties benefit from absentee votes.

“It’s clear that access to absentee ballots is not a Democratic or a Republican issue. This bill is about increasing access to voting for all Delawareans,” said Rep. Earl Jaques, D-Glasgow, the bill’s prime sponsor.

“There was nothing political about our vote,” House Minority Leader Danny Short rebuffed. “We believe that by rejecting House Bill 20 we helped to protect Delaware’s election process.”

Rep. Short says all 14 members of the House Republican caucus voted against it members felt the bill was too broad in scope. 

“We sought legal advice and we consistently found flaws with the bill. After talking with our attorneys, we found that the legislation should have been more tightly defined when it came to deciding who could be eligible to vote by absentee. This bill was too open-ended and had the potential to lead to voter fraud,” said Rep. Short, R-Seaford.

Because HB 20 would amend the state’s Constitution, it would need to pass two consecutive General Assemblies.

Someone on the prevailing side, in this case any Republican, could rescind the roll call vote to reopen debate; however, the clock is ticking. General Assembly rules state a motion for reconsideration must be made within three legislative days. Therefore if no action is taken, the bill is dead.

The National Conference of State Legislatures shows at least 27 states and Washington, D.C., including neighboring New Jersey and Maryland, already have no-excuse absentee voting.

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