Virus delay, mail-in rules put unusual spin on primary election

DOVER — Today is the day to vote in Delaware’s primary election.

That is, unless you already submitted your ballot by mail. Or if you are registered to vote but aren’t a Democrat or Republican, in which case you can’t take part at all in voting today.

Regardless, it’s primary day, with polls open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., and myriad races on the ballot. There are three statewide primaries on both sides of the aisle, as well as a dozen legislative primaries, nearly all of which are Democratic. Some county offices also have contests, though most are upstate.

The big story is whether Democratic voters opt to push the party to the left by going with several progressive challengers hoping to unseat powerful incumbents. Some hopefuls have better odds than others, but either way, both moderates and leftists in the Democratic Party have a lot at stake.

For Republicans, it’s a chance to channel anger over COVID-19 restrictions and other issues in hopes to finding a candidate who can win statewide in November. Democrats control all nine statewide offices here and hold a hefty advantage in voter registration numbers.

Because of the pandemic, the election was pushed back two weeks and procedures are different this year, chiefly in the form of mail-in voting.

Ballots have to be received by 8 p.m. today to count, so if you have not yet mailed your ballot, do not do so. Instead, drop it off at the Department of Elections’ office in your home county. You are still permitted to vote after 8 p.m. as long as you were in line before polls closed.

Individuals who requested a ballot mailed to them but were unable to get it back to the department in time can still vote.

“For a person in that situation, the poll books that poll workers use to check voters in at the polling place will be noted that an absentee or mail ballot was requested and not returned. The poll worker contacts the county elections office, and that absentee or mail ballot is then voided, and the voter may vote at the polling place,” Election Commissioner Anthony Albence wrote in an email.

All regular polling places are expected to be open today, and though a few are located in different buildings due to coronavirus, voters have been notified of changes, per the state.

Delawareans who choose to vote in person should wear masks and social distance. Workers will frequently clean polling places.

Individuals who vote at a polling station will be asked to show identification or, if they decline to do so, sign an affidavit stating they are casting a ballot legally.

According to Mr. Albence, most results should be finished as normal tonight, even though Delaware figures to see tens of thousands of ballots submitted by mail, many times more than in a typical election.

In July’s presidential primary, for which full vote-by-mail was not yet in place, about 45% of voters submitted absentee ballots. Eighty-three percent of those who voted remotely were Democrats, reflecting GOP mistrust in vote-by-mail spurred in part by President Donald Trump.

At the statewide level, the marquee race among Democrats is the U.S. Senate primary, where Jess Scarane is trying to upset Sen. Chris Coons. Ms. Scarane, who is running on a platform perhaps best described as a progressive’s dream, is at a significant financial disadvantage but remains confident in her chances.

Sen. Coons was elected in 2010 and reelected in 2014. He’s known for working across the aisle, promoting bipartisanship and cooperation even in these divisive times. Notably, he won the seat in 2010 after Republican Mike Castle, considered the favorite, was upset in a primary.

Democratic Gov. John Carney will face David Lamar Williams Jr. in what is expected to be a win for the incumbent. With Gov. Carney being fairly popular among Delaware Democrats and Mr. Williams not running a very visible campaign (he has not filed a finance report, likely indicating he plans to spend less than $500 on his race), many votes for the challenger figure to be primarily protest votes against the governor.

In the third and final statewide Democratic primary, Insurance Commissioner Trinidad Navarro is seeking a second term but will first have to get past Kayode Abegunde.

On the Republican side, there are primaries for both houses of Congress, as well as a crowded contest for governor.

Jim DeMartino, the endorsed GOP candidate, faces Lauren Witzke in the battle for the GOP’s nomination for the Senate, while Lee Murphy and Matthew Morris square off in the House.

Mr. Murphy, who received the party’s endorsement at its July convention, unsuccessfully sought the nomination in 2018.

Ms. Witzke and Mr. Morris, both of whom are much younger than their foes, are active on social media, often praising the president. Each has been open about struggles with addiction.

Six Republicans are seeking to end Gov. Carney’s hope for a second term in November, although each must first get past a tight field, with Colin Bonini, Bryant Richardson, Julianne Murray, David Graham, David Bosco and Scott Walker all running. The first two have experience as state senators.

Ms. Murray has the party’s endorsement, while Sen. Bonini was the party’s nominee for governor in 2016.

Primaries feature lower turnout than general elections, and legislative primaries receive even less attention than statewide ones. A primary for a seat in the General Assembly could easily see only 2,000 votes, meaning around 80% of eligible voters in the district often do not take part.

This year, there are Democratic primaries in the 1st (Wilmington), 5th (northern suburbs of Wilmington, including communities like Talley’s Corner), 13th (New Castle) and 14th (Smyrna) Senatorial districts. In the House, multiple Democrats are running for the 4th (Wilmington), 7th (Arden), 8th (Middletown), 10th (Brandywine), 26th (Newark), 27th (Glasgow) and 34th (Camden-Wyoming).

Longtime incumbents, including the highest-ranking senator and the longest-serving member of the House, are among those being challenged from the left.

The 14th and 34th are the only Downstate districts with primaries. In the 14th, Democrats Kyra Hoffner and Terrell Williams are taking on Sen. Bruce Ennis, a moderate lawmaker who’s been in the Legislature since 1982, while Craig Pugh and Terry Baker compete for the GOP nomination.

The 34th features Democrats Bob Haynes and Ade Kuforiji squaring off for the Democratic party nomination and the right to go up against Republican Rep. Lyndon Yearick in November.

Each county has some local primaries, as well, although Kent County will see only one: Joanne Masten and Morgan Russum seeking the Democratic bid for Levy Court’s 1st District. That seat has been held by Brooks Banta, who is retiring, for 24 years.

For Sussex County Council, Cindy Green, Lisa Briggs Hudson and Robert Wilson are running in the 2nd District GOP primary, while the 3rd District features a Republican contest between Councilman I.G. Burton and Mark Schaeffer.

Ms. Green is the register of wills, and Mr. Wilson is the son of the current seatholder, Sam Wilson, who is retiring.

Individuals seeking more information can visit elections.delaware.gov to find their polling place, who they can vote for, where they can drop ballots off and more. To view a sample ballot, go to bit.ly/3miJL0l.