Election commissioner outlines voting details

WILMINGTON — Anyone looking to register to vote in Delaware’s closed primary Sept. 15 must register by Saturday at 11:59 p.m., Delaware Election Commissioner Anthony Albence reminded eligible voters Wednesday.

Mr. Albence said the easiest way to register and to double-check if a person is registered is to visit ivote.de.gov.

Those interested in requesting a ballot to vote by mail can also do so at ivote.de.gov. Mr. Albence said all eligible, registered voters should have already been mailed a vote-by-mail application, as well.

This is the first year Delaware has had vote-by-mail for its elections after the General Assembly passed House Bill 346, which uses the same long-standing system in place for absentee voters. The difference between absentee ballots and vote-by-mail, Mr. Albence said, is that vote-by-mail does not require a specific reason to mail a ballot, unlike absentee ballots.

House Bill 346 is only for this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic and will cover the state’s primary and general elections. The legislation will expire in January.

Mr. Albence said Delaware traditionally sees 3%-4% of its ballots submitted by absentee. But in the presidential primaries July 7, the number of mailed ballots was 45%.

“We have made substantial upgrades and changes in our operations to certainly handle the influx of ballots,” Mr. Albence said. “We encourage everyone to obviously participate. Register to vote and vote by the means that’s best for you and which you’re more comfortable in the current situation.”

“We want to make it easier for people to exercise their right to vote,” Gov. John Carney said Wednesday. “To do it safely, to not have to think about if they’ll catch the COVID-19 virus from going out to a polling station. Vote-by-mail is one way to do it.”

Mr. Albence also ensured the public that the vote-by-mail system is safe and that each vote will only be counted once.

“There are a host of internal controls that we have in our system,” Mr. Albence said. “All the applications are reviewed by staff as they are entered, and we make sure the information is accurate compared to the voter registration record. … Anything that would need to be further reviewed is referred to an experienced supervisor.

“We also have a number of safeguards in the system that absolutely ensures there is only ever one active ballot per voter at any time,” Mr. Albence added. “I just want to make sure folks know that. Sometimes, we get that question, ‘Is it possible to vote more than once?’ It is not.”

Vote-by-mail ballots are not mailed automatically, Mr. Albence said. They must be requested.

All voters can still vote at their regular polling place if they desire.

Mr. Albence said Delaware is a “ballot-in-hand” state, so completed ballots must be in the custody of the county elections office by 8 p.m. the day the polls close. A ballot postmarked before the election, but received after close of polls, will not count.

He said the best practice is to mail your ballot one week in advance.

“The sooner, the better,” Mr. Albence said. “I cannot stress that enough. It’s always the prudent thing to do and always the best practice.”

Delaware also has two secure drop box locations Downstate for completed ballots: one in Kent County (Department of Elections, 100 Enterprise Place, Suite 5, in Dover, open Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.) and another in Sussex County (Department of Elections, 119 N. Race St. in Georgetown, open Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.).

The deadline is Oct. 10 to register for the general election Nov. 3.