Voting Rights Advocates Launch Campaign to Secure & Expand Access to Voting for Delawareans

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The ACLU of Delaware and other voting rights advocates have launched a campaign to secure and expand access to voting for Delawareans. This campaign will elevate the positions of candidates on critical democracy issues and utilize community organizing, lobbying and legal advocacy to ensure voters can cast their ballots without encountering barriers.

Additional information from ACLU of Delaware:

The campaign announcement follows recent litigation and legislative logjam that has held up reforms.

On Friday, February 23, 2024 the Delaware Superior Court ruled that the state’s early voting and permanent absentee voting laws violate the state Constitution.

“Delaware made a commitment to develop the project of American democracy to improve and make more representative our systems of government,” said Andrew Bernstein, Cozen Voting Rights Fellow at ACLU-DE. “We are here today because that commitment is at a crossroads.”

Due to divisiveness on voting rights issues, opponents of increased voter access lodged a successful lawsuit in 2022 against Delaware’s same-day registration and no-excuse vote by mail laws and stalled out previous efforts to expand voting rights through constitutional amendments.

“It will be difficult to explain to these voters that the only option they have when voting, is to go to the polls, and that they cannot vote by mail like they did in 2020, and they might not be able to vote early like they did in 2022,” said Jill Itzkowitz from the League of Women Voters.

These restrictions make Delaware one of the least accessible states to cast a ballot.

“With the recent ruling, we are at risk of joining just 3 other states — Alabama, New Hampshire, and Mississippi — that do not offer any early voting options,” said Jeff Raffel from Common Cause Delaware.

Delaware’s democratic backslide has very real consequences for voters who know the power one vote holds.

“The vote of one Latinx citizen is the voice of million voiceless undocumented immigrants,” said Charito Calvachi-Mateyko from the Votamos We Vote Coalition. “This is the belief of the Votamos We Vote Coalition I represent here.”

Criminal legal disenfranchisement laws have a direct connection to Jim Crow laws that were promoted after the Civil War, which sought to deny the right to vote to Black Americans. Given our legal system’s disparate treatment of Black and brown people, it is no shock that a disproportionate number of the more than 7,000 people disenfranchised due to these laws in Delaware are people of color.

“Delaware needs a constitutional amendment to ensure important voting rights, to keep moving forward and not backward to the 40s and 60s prior to the Civil Rights Movement,” said Richard “Mouse” Smith from the NAACP Delaware Chapter.

This is why the ACLU of Delaware will be announcing a long-term campaign focused on delivering a series of critical democracy reforms in the First State over the next several years. This campaign will work to pass 1) early in-person and by mail voting options, 2) same-day-registration, and 3) felony enfranchisement so people with felony convictions can vote upon the end of their sentences.

“This campaign is bigger than a single piece of legislation but represents a commitment to enacting these changes over the next several years in the state constitution,” said Mike Brickner, Executive Director at ACLU-DE.

The ACLU of Delaware is proud to partner with the Delaware Voting Rights Coalition—a strong and vibrant group of nonpartisan, nonprofit organizations that will help lead this work.

“Democracy will win in Delaware. And, when democracy wins, everyone wins,” Bernstein says.

Watch the recorded press conference here: https://youtu.be/-xAwxdVfmJs.


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