Voting Amendment Falls Short In Del. House

A vote of 25 yes, 14 no was not enough in the Delaware House of Representatives to pass the second leg of a Constitutional Amendment that would have eliminated limitation as to when a person could vote by absentee ballot.

The same bill passed 38-3 in the previous Delaware General Assembly. A two-thirds majority in two consecutive sessions is required to amend the Constitution.

The amendment would provide that “the General Assembly shall enact general laws providing the circumstances, rules, and procedures for absentee voting.”

The sponsor of House Bill 75, Representative David Bentz, D-Christiana said:

“House Bill 75 is the second leg of a constitutional amendment that eliminates limitations for when an individual can cast an absentee ballot. Delaware would become one of 35 states allowing for no-excuse absentee voting. We have had absentee voting in Delaware in some form for 60 years and it has always been safe and reliable.

“We passed the first leg of this amendment in 2019 fairly emphatically. As I said on the floor today, absolutely nothing has changed with regards to the security or efficacy of absentee voting since 2019. The only thing that has changed is the political rhetoric around it, which is built on a concerted disinformation campaign.

“Delawareans should be able to exercise their right to vote with ease, not just in person, but through a safe and secure absentee process. Unfortunately, those who switched their votes from 2019 were largely silent on the floor, giving no reasons why. I hope they explain whether the political rhetoric has changed their minds or if some other concern has surfaced.

“We will continue to stand up for all residents’ ability to vote safely and securely, whether through this amendment or other efforts.”

House Minority Leader Danny Short, R-Seaford released this statement Thursday:

“No Republican State Representative voted to pass House Bill 75. While the proposed amendment had some support from our caucus on its first leg during the 150th General Assembly, in the time since then many of our members reexamined it and began expressing significant reservations.  We repeatedly shared these concerns with House Majority Leader Valerie Longhurst (D-Bear, Delaware City) prior to today’s vote.  To be clear, despite the sponsors’ claims, the bill does not authorize ‘no excuse’ absentee voting.  Rather, it eliminates from the state constitution the provisions authorizing absentee voting and gives the General Assembly the ability to enact new laws to recreate it in whatever fashion legislators see fit.  That change significantly lowers the bar for majority Democrats to manipulate the law, with no Republican votes needed.  Using that power, I believe they intend to turn no excuse absentee voting into a ‘vote by mail’ system – a scheme that will benefit Democrats.  Any doubt about the partisan nature of this issue was erased after today’s vote.  There were three Republican bills on Thursday’s House Agenda, one of which, ironically, was to make it easier for people to vote in municipal elections.  Rep. Longhurst refused to allow any of those bills to be voted on in an act of retribution for the Republican vote on HB 75.  We may not have seen the last of this bill, but House Democrats have given us even less reason to trust their good intentions on this issue.”

In a statement, Delaware Republican Party Chair Jane Brady said:

“I am pleased that this amendment has not yet passed. Few people realize how significantly this amendment would change voting in Delaware, removing the protections in our Constitution and replacing them with the whim of the General Assembly.”