Proposed bill would expand absentee voting

 

DOVER — A bill filed Thursday would allow no excuse absentee voting, enabling all registered Delawareans to cast ballots by mail.

The legislation, identical to versions introduced in 2015 and 2013, would strike a requirement that an absentee ballot can only be obtained if someone cannot vote in person because of military service, vacation, an illness, a disability, work commitments or religious beliefs. Instead, all Delawareans who can vote would be able to vote absentee.

The proposal is once again sponsored by Rep. Earl Jaques, D-Glasgow.

“I am always … trying to make it as easy as it can be, and with absentee, you know, legislators have put parameters on who can and who can’t have an absentee vote,” he said in 2015. “There’s only like six reasons, I think, and the truth is, people lie.”

Thirty-seven states offer no excuse absentee voting, early voting or voting by mail, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Earl Jaques

Expanded voting rights is traditionally a Democratic cause, and although the Democratic Party has a majority in both chambers of the General Assembly, it falls short of the two-thirds majority needed for constitutional amendments.

The bill made it out of committee last year but never went to the floor for a vote.

Other legislation

Several other bills were introduced Thursday, five days ahead of the resumption of session after a break of almost seven weeks.

A measure with bipartisan support, also sponsored by Rep. Jaques, would mandate all classroom doors can be locked from either side. Many school doors currently cannot lock from the inside, raising security concerns, according to the legislation.

A similar bill, which carried a $4 million price tag, never made it out of committee last year.

For the fourth consecutive General Assembly, some lawmakers are trying to remove Freedom of Information Act exemptions from the University of Delaware and Delaware State University.

Last year’s proposal had little support.

Currently, only board of trustees’ meetings and documents dealing with public funds are considered public records.

Legislation in January that would have criminalized possession of tobacco products by those under age 18 has been replaced by a bill that would instead create a civil penalty for violators.

Minors are not allowed to buy tobacco, but there is no law prohibiting them from possessing or using it.

The bill would require first-time offenders attend a course on the dangers of nicotine. All others who break the law would have mandatory community service.

Reach staff writer Matt Bittle at mbittle@newszap.com

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