Delaware preparing for June 2 presidential primary

DOVER — For now, at least, Delawareans are scheduled to cast their ballots for presidential candidates for the first time on June 2.

The First State’s presidential primary election, originally slated for April 28, was pushed back last week due to the coronavirus outbreak. While it remains to be seen whether more delays will be needed, state officials are preparing to host the election in two months.

Due to the virus, Gov. John Carney has expanded the list of reasons why someone can vote absentee and is encouraging people to do so.

Election Commissioner Anthony Albence said last week Delaware expects to have the usual polling locations open but is aware there may be some alterations.

“We are anticipating a limited number of changes, for example, if a facility housing a polling place chooses not to participate in light of the COVID-19 situation,” Mr. Albence wrote in an email. “We are hoping that some facilities with reservations about housing a polling place in the current situation may be open to doing so again in light of the move of the presidential primary after the expected end of the current state of emergency. In any case, if a voter’s polling place is changed, they will be notified by mail, and our information posted online will be updated accordingly.”

Anthony Albence

Democrats can vote for former Vice President Joe Biden or current U.S. Sens. Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren (who has withdrawn from the race but not from the state’s primary). Republicans have their pick of President Donald Trump and businessman Rocky De La Fuente.

According to The New York Times, 14 states have moved their primary back or have opted to embrace voting by mail. Delaware is among the six states that picked June 2, which is just a week before the June 9 deadline set by the Democratic National Committee.

The Delaware Democratic Party said last week it has suspended delegate selection for the convention.

Per a letter from the party chairman sent to Democrats, 12 of the 41 districts have not yet selected delegates

This will be Delaware’s first presidential primary with its new voting machines, which the state purchased in 2018 and implemented for the first time in May 2019’s school board elections.

The 1,500 or so ExpressVote XLs replaced the Danaher ELECTronic 1242s, which had been in use since 1995 and were described by election officials as greatly outdated. The new machines are in many respects very similar to the old models, although these contain a voter-verifiable paper trail.

Upon signing in at a polling place, a voter is given a paper card he or she then inserts into a machine. The voter fills out his or her choices on the machine and then can view the card to ensure they are accurate.

The cards function as the official ballots of record in case of a dispute or a recount, adding a useful backup should an issue arise.

Some advocates had called for the state to shift to paper ballots, abandoning electronic voter for security reasons, a change the selection team was firmly against.

The state has been holding demonstrations with the machines for at least a year, and although these have been halted because of the virus, Mr. Albence said the department hopes to resume training sessions before the primary.

Machines are still available in the agency’s office for demonstrations, and information online at elections.delaware.gov/technology/index.shtml gives voters an overview of the gadgets.

Legislation awaiting action in the General Assembly would authorize voting by mail, although it remains to be seen if the coronavirus threat ends early enough that lawmakers can reconvene before the primary.

“Voting is one of the most important duties we have as citizens of our state and country,” Rep. Gerald Brady, a Wilmington Democrat who is sponsoring the vote by mail bill, said in a statement. “I served our country in the military to protect every person’s rights, including the right to vote. And I believe that we should be doing everything in our power to ensure that as many people have the opportunity to vote.

“Our world has changed in these past few weeks, and we have to be ready to change with it. It’s critical Delaware is prepared to take whatever steps are necessary to protect our elections and people’s health. Having our vote-by-mail bill in a position to move forward at a moment’s notice is one thing we can do.”

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi this week spoke in favor of adopting voting by mail for the November election, something Delaware’s junior U.S. senator has endorsed already.

“It’s very possible that COVID-19 will continue to disrupt American lives through November, and we need to prepare the country to vote if that’s the case,” Sen. Chris Coons, a Democrat, said in a statement. “Republican and Democratic officials across the country have encouraged expansions of no-excuse vote-by-mail and early voting — it’s a commonsense initiative to ensure states have the resources they need to effectively administer elections.”


Helpful Coronavirus links

Delaware Division of Health Coronavirus Page
CDC: About the Coronavirus Disease 2019
CDC: What to do if You Are Sick
Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center
AP News Coronavirus Coverage
Reopening Delaware: Resources for Businesses
Delaware Phase 2 guidance

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