Absentee ballots skyrocket ahead of Delaware presidential primary

DOVER — Tuesday’s presidential primary in Delaware will see an unprecedented number of absentee ballots submitted, likely a result of the state of emergency order by Gov. John Carney as new COVID-19 cases continue to rise.

State Election Commissioner Anthony Albence said on Monday the state had received 53,000 absentee ballots, a very high count for a presidential primary election compared to previous years.

“[Absentee ballots returned] are tremendously higher this year than a presidential primary normally is,” Mr. Albence said. “Historically, we would have gotten just a few thousand back. This election has seen a very large increase.

In the 2016 Delaware presidential primary, absentee ballots only counted for 5,046 votes out of the more than 160,000 votes cast, a little over 3%.

Joe Biden

Earlier this spring, the Department of Elections sent applications for absentee ballots to every registered Republican and Democrat in the state who had not yet requested one.

Legislation passed by the Delaware General Assembly last week said that in future state primary and general elections, voters have the right to submit a vote by mail, even if they do not have a reason that falls into the requirements for requesting an absentee ballot. State officials predict that in future elections, mail-in ballots could count for up to 50% of total votes cast.

Mr. Albence said voting by mail could continue to see increased popularity given the new legislation and further spread of COVID-19.

“Given the situation and the current concern about coronavirus, I think this certainly seems to be a trend in this election, and perhaps with the new legislation, it could very likely continue in the future. It certainly would not be unexpected to see that,” he said.

The legislation does not apply to Tuesday’s primary election. Any persons who sent in an absentee ballot under Gov. Carney’s state of emergency order was prompted to select their reason for requesting as “sick” or “physically disabled.”

As a result of the COVID-19 related state of emergency order, today’s primary election was rescheduled twice. Despite a sudden uptick in new COVID-19 cases across the state last week, most polling locations will remain open Tuesday.

Mr. Albence noted that while some polling locations will remain closed, he does not anticipate this having a large impact on voter accessibility due to adjustments the state has made to voting procedures. These adjustments include increased voting equipment at some locations and giving voters the option to vote at any polling location in their county.

President Donald Trump

Additionally, the state will implement multiple health and safety regulations at all polling locations in order to prevent the further spread of COVID-19, including increased sanitation among other standard precautions including masks and social distancing.

Voters who have not yet turned in their absentee ballot have until 8 p.m. Tuesday to deliver it to the elections office that issued the ballot, which is identified on the form.

On the Democratic side, Delaware’s own Joseph Biden will be on the ballot along with Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

On the Republican ticket, President Donald Trump takes on businessman Rocky De La Fuente.

Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Voters can find information about their in-person polling locations at https://ivote.de.gov/voterview.