Absentee votes may create drama, but not in Delaware

Registered Democrats and Republicans in the state received a letter last week that allows them the option of voting absentee in the president primary. The third box allows Delawareans to avoid polling places if the coronavirus is a concern.

DOVER — Two thoughts occurred when reading an Associated Press story about the election night cliffhanger we should anticipate in November.

One is the citizens’ desire to know in a timely fashion.

The other is our obligation to get news out on hectic election nights.

The AP reported that a big shift to mail voting lessens the chance we will know the winner of the presidential race on election night.

State election leaders in some key battleground states said it may take days to tally up an incredible number of mailed ballots.

It is just one more twist in the era of the novel coronavirus.

“It may be several days before we know the outcome of the election,” Jocelyn Benson, Michigan’s Democratic secretary of state, told the AP. “We have to prepare for that now and accept that reality.”

Delawareans, however, should not have to wait too long, according to Anthony Albence, Delaware’s election commissioner.

“Per the Delaware Code, Delaware is a ‘ballot in hand’ state, meaning that absentee ballots must be returned to the elections office (in each county) that issued them by the time of the close of polls on election night,” Mr. Albence wrote in an email to this editor.

“Our offices plan to do all we can to ensure all absentee ballots received by that time are scanned and ready to be tabulated as close as possible to the time the polls close on election night, and then for us to provide unofficial results as quickly as possible thereafter.”

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Here at the Delaware State News, we have had two very memorable election nights without a clear presidential winner.

In 2016, the race to 270 electoral votes was a late night/early morning mystery that we couldn’t solve before the press had to start and the Delaware State News carriers had to roll.

It was an hour and a half after our already blown deadline before we had confirmation that Donald Trump won the presidency.

And, in 2000, there was the fiasco in Florida that led to weeks of chaos and court fights. Remember the hanging chads?

In the AP story, Ohio Republican secretary of state Frank LaRose said Americans will need to be patient.

“We’ve gotten accustomed to this idea that by the middle of the evening of election night, we’re going to know all the results,” said Mr. LaRose. “Election night reporting may take a little longer.”

Each state runs its own election process. In some states, ballots can be accepted several days after Election Day – as long as they are postmarked before polls close. Some states, including Michigan and Pennsylvania, do not allow mail-in ballots to be counted before election day, essentially making it impossible to complete in a day.

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Last week, Delaware’s registered Republicans and Democrats were mailed a letter that included an absentee ballot application with instructions related to coronavirus concerns.

“For the presidential primary, voters that are impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, even if not exhibiting symptoms, are permitted to vote absentee,” the letter said. “Please check #3 on the absentee ballot application: ‘I am sick, or temporarily or permanently disabled.’”

Earlier this month, Delaware Gov. John Carney postponed the presidential primary for a second time, noting the need to extend absentee ballot opportunities to allow more people to stay at home.

It is now scheduled for July 7.

“We are definitely seeing a response from our mailing, and this continues the trend of more voters opting to vote absentee than in elections in prior years,” said Mr. Albence.

In Gov. Carney’s order regarding the presidential primary, he included an allowance for the state election officials to be able to start counting 30 days prior, rather than the usual 10.

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Delaware’s lawmakers made history with their first virtual sessions last week.

Delaware State News reporter Matt Bittle was following the action, of course.

He noticed that there was a Delaware flag behind almost every representative who appeared on the Zoom screen and offered some quick observations on Twitter.

“In case you’re wondering, the only lawmakers who did not have Delaware flags behind them I could see were Sean Lynn, Bryan Shupe and Jesse Vanderwende. Shupe did have a UD diploma on the wall, and Vanderwende had the Delaware seal behind him,” Mr. Bittle tweeted.

Rep. Lynn, we later confirmed, had the flag behind him but it was mostly obstructed from view.

The flags were tacked to walls and pinned to curtains. Many still had the creases from how the flags were folded in a package.

It wasn’t mentioned during the session, but we learned the flags were a suggestion from Majority Leader Valerie Longhurst, a Democrat from Bear, who thought it might convey a sense of unity. The Secretary of State’s office helped track down enough flags for each representative.