Decision day upon us as Delaware voters go to the polls

From left, Alexis Gatti and her daughters Lilly, 9, and Natalia 10, drop off a ballot at the Department of Elections Kent County office on Monday afternoon. (Special to the Delaware State News/Ariane Mueller)

DOVER — Finally.

After a seemingly interminable buildup, Election Day is here at last. Hundreds of thousands of Delawareans will go to the polls today to vote for governor, Congress, the legislature, local offices and more.

Oh, and president is on the ballot too. Can’t forget about that one.

Results for most offices should be known by 11 tonight. The one exception comes at the national level, where the winner of the presidential contest might not be known for days or even weeks due to the flood of ballots submitted by mail this year.

As of Monday afternoon, slightly more than 161,000 Delawareans had already voted, taking advantage of a vote-by-mail law approved by the General Assembly this year due to COVID.

About 442,000 Delawareans voted in 2016, with roughly 5% of ballots coming in remotely through the absentee process. September’s primary election saw nearly 178,000 votes in total, with about 76,000 of those sent by mail. Approximately 53% of Democratic voted remotely, while only around 23% of Republicans did so.

Despite the expanded mail-in voting, all polling places will be open today, allowing Delawareans who wish to vote in person to do so. Face coverings are highly recommended but are not required.

Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., though anyone waiting in line when the clock strikes 8 will still be allowed to vote.

Identification is recommended to help speed up the sign-in process but is not mandatory. Anyone who does not wish to show ID must sign an affidavit stating they are voting legally.

Individuals who have cast a ballot by mail but are concerned about it arriving on time or wish to change their vote can participate in person if the ballot has not been processed already. Go to ivote.de.gov/VoterView to see if your mail-in ballot has been received and processed or to find your polling place.

Voters line up for the ballot dropoff at the Kent County Department of Elections office in Dover on Monday afternoon.

Monday was the deadline to request an absentee ballot.

Ballots can be dropped off at your county elections office. They will not be accepted at polling sites and must be in by 8 p.m. to count

The Department of Elections scans ballots ahead of Election Day but does not begin tallying the results until polls close. According to Election Commissioner Anthony Albence, the agency expects to be able to collect and add totals tonight as usual, although the mail-in ballots do add some uncertainty.

Results are not official until they are certified by the Superior Court Thursday. The state’s three electoral votes will officially be cast Dec. 14.

According to the Pew Research Center, more than 75 million ballots had already been sent in across the nation as of Wednesday. Unlike Delaware, 23 states count mail-in votes after Election Day, per Pew.

The Delaware Department of Justice announced last week it plans to “strictly enforce” laws against voter intimidation. Voter intimidation can include threatening people, whether implicitly or explicitly, as well as questioning voters about whether they are eligible (aside from poll workers inquiring, of course), impeding them from entering a polling place and filming or photographing them.

Individuals are barred from advocating for candidates in polling places, including wearing apparel touting or opposing a candidate or specific partisan issue. Shirts proclaiming “Black Lives Matter” or “Blue Lives Matter” are permissible, per the Department of Justice, while “Make America Great Again” hats are not.

Voters who are concerned about a perceived threat to their safety should call 911. Delawareans with other election-related concerns can call the Department of Elections’ voter hotline at 739-4277.

Department of Justice personnel in all three counties will staff a hotline for law enforcement to contact in the event of illegal activity on Election Day.

Because of COVID, the state Democratic Party is taking its regular watch party virtual. From 9 to 11 p.m., dozens of candidates, party leaders and others will tune in with hopes of celebrating big victories. The public can watch at facebook.com/DelawareDemocraticParty or deldems.org.

Several in-person events are still planned throughout the state, such as a GOP gathering at the Delaware Agricultural Museum in Dover and a local Democratic Party caucus in the Smyrna area.

Blue wave or red tide?

The 2018 midterm contest left Delaware Republicans with few reasons to celebrate. Will that be the same this time around?

Because of demographics (almost 48% of the nearly 740,000 voters here are Democrats, compared to 28% registered as Republicans) the Democratic Party effectively controls state government.

Democrats have held the governor’s mansion since 1993, both chambers of the legislature since 2008 and all three spots in the congressional delegation since 2010. In 2018, the party’s nominees won the races for auditor and treasurer, giving Democrats control of all nine statewide offices for the first time in state history (Republicans possessed all nine offices and the General Assembly from 1969 to 1971).

Today, Democrats are looking to expand their dominance and pick up some additional seats in the legislature, particularly in New Castle County. Having Joe Biden, a resident of Delaware for nearly seven decades, as the party’s nominee could boost turnout here.

Cynthia Bermingham drops off her ballot Monday.

The share of participating voters in Delaware is expected to surpass 2016’s turnout of 65.4%.

Republicans are hopeful the “silent majority” truly does stand with President Donald Trump, believing support for the president as well as anger over COVID-related restrictions will carry the day.

Delaware has voted for the Democratic nominee in the past seven presidential elections. Hillary Clinton collected 53.4% of the state’s popular vote in 2016, a figure Mr. Biden seems very likely to surpass.

Go to elections.delaware.gov for general election information and bit.ly/3kR3nYv for a full list of candidates.