Answers to frequently and infrequently asked questions about voting in Delaware

Steve Stearns illustrates that selfies are strongly discouraged in a voting booth by the Delaware Department of Elections. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

Steve Stearns illustrates that selfies are strongly discouraged in a voting booth by the Delaware Department of Elections. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

DOVER — Election day is almost here. Tuesday Delawareans will head to polling places throughout the state to cast their ballots with, no doubt, a lot on their minds.

A few might wonder “am I allowed to take a selfie with the voting machine?”

“Is there a time limit to vote?”

“Are mentally disabled people allowed to vote?”

An unspoken polling place etiquette appears to be understood since it is rare that a voting faux pas has been reported. But is there a voting day protocol? The Delaware State News went to the woman who knows, State Election Commissioner Elaine Manlove.

“What should I bring with me to the polling place?”

ID is best, but it’s not necessary.

“Bringing a driver’s license is the easiest thing,” Ms. Manlove said. “We’re going to ask you for some ID, and probably about 98 percent of our voters walk in with their driver’s license and it keeps the line moving fast. If you don’t have some form of acceptable ID, but your name is on the poll list, you can fill out an affidavit saying that you are who you say you are and we’ll let you vote. If your name is not on the poll list, staff will call the office and find out if you’re in the wrong polling place or what the issue is.”

“My kids are too young to be left unattended, can they come in the booth with me?”

Yes.

“You are allowed to bring children in with you,” Ms. Manlove said. “Voters can actually take up to three kids into the voting booth.”

“I want to support my chosen candidate at a polling place, how close can I get?”

50 feet from the door.

“Candidates themselves and supporters need to be 50 feet from the front door. We usually do have some surrogates show up that hang around that mark,” Ms. Manlove said.

“Can the media bother me while I’m voting?”

Only when you’re on your way out.

“Outside of people working at the polling place or people coming in to vote, no one else will be there unless they are

Elaine Manlove is the State Election Commissioner for Delaware. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

Elaine Manlove is the State Election Commissioner for Delaware. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

escorted by the Department of Elections by prior arrangement,” Ms. Manlove said. “Exit pollers and media can only talk to voters who are leaving, not those who are about to go in and vote. They also have to stay 50 feet away from the door.”

“I really need some time to think about my vote this year, is there a time limit in the booth?”

No.

“We don’t ever really have an issue with this,” said Ms. Manlove. “We don’t have a very long ballot so people can take their time to vote if they want. If someone is in there for a while, a poll worker will probably go over there and ask if they need assistance. They won’t open the curtain, but they’ll ask.”

“Can felons vote?”

Yes, with exceptions.

“Former felons have been able to vote since 2000 after they waited for five years,” Ms. Manlove said. “In the last several years, that five-year restriction came off and then this year the fines and restitutions came off. Former felons still have to pay their fines, but they are no longer an impediment to voting. There are still restrictions on permanently disqualifying felonies. Those are forever. They include sex crimes, murder and violations of public trust by a public official.”

“Can mentally disabled people vote?”

Not if they are ruled as such by formal judgment.

“The code says people cannot be registered to vote if they are adjudicated mentally incompetent,” Ms. Manlove said. “A judge would have to say it, not me.”

“This election is stressful, can I bring in my emotional support poodle?”

Yes!

“Service dogs or assistance animals are welcome,” said Ms. Manlove.

“I can’t operate the voting machine on my own, can I bring my caretaker to help?”

Yes, with exceptions.

“If an elderly person or disabled person needs help to vote, they can bring in a caretaker,” said Ms. Manlove. “The code does say that your caretaker can’t be your boss or a union representative. People who need assistance will usually come with someone that can help them. However, in the case that they don’t have anyone with them but still need help, two poll workers, one Republican and one Democrat, will go in together to assist them.”

“I want to show all my friends that I voted, can I take a selfie?”

Probably, but please don’t.

“We’ve had a sign in our polling places for years that says ‘no cellphone use in the polling place,’ ” Ms. Manlove said. “It’s not law, but it’s a courtesy. Sometimes people are walking in line talking on their cellphones while poll workers are trying to check people in and it slows things down. Cellphones tend to be a distraction to voters. If someone is in the voting booth with the curtain closed and they take a picture — first of all, we probably wouldn’t even know about it — but even if we saw a flash or heard it snap, we really can’t open that curtain.”

She went on to note that incessantly taking selfies is a bit of a new issue and may need some examination further down the road.

“We’ve had that sign up for a while, but that was before everyone started taking pictures of everything with their cellphones,” she said. “There will be an enforcement issue if we decide that we need to do something about it.

“I don’t know if we’d have to collect cellphones at the door or what? I’m not sure what we’ll do going down the road, we haven’t really had a discussion on that yet.”

The polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Reach staff writer Ian Gronau at igronau@newszap.com

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