Former Delaware Elections Commissioner Manlove, husband die in crash

NEW CASTLE — Former Delaware Elections Commissioner Elaine Manlove and her husband, Wayne, died from injuries suffered in a two-vehicle collision Monday afternoon, according to public officials.

Elaine Manlove

Mrs. Manlove stepped down as Delaware’s commissioner of elections in 2019, completing a 12-year tenure. Her time as commissioner was highlighted by a shift of part of the state’s voter registration system from paper to electronic, along with the purchase of new voting machines.

Gov. John Carney expressed his condolences in a statement Tuesday.

“Tracey and I are devastated by the tragic news about Elaine Manlove and her husband, Wayne,” he said.

“I’ve known Elaine since our days working together for New Castle County Executive Dennis Greenhouse in the early 1990s. Elaine was one of the most positive people I’ve ever known — and could light up any room. We are praying hard for Elaine and Wayne’s children, their entire family and many friends. Elaine spent the last two decades protecting our fundamental right to vote — 12 of those years as Delaware’s Elections Commissioner.

“She delayed her retirement to help prepare for the unprecedented challenges of the 2020 election. Elaine and Election Day have been one and the same for years. She was a public servant and a good friend. We are also sending strength today to Elaine’s second family at the Department of Elections. This is not an easy day for them, but I know they will be working hard to protect our democracy and make Elaine proud.”

Gov. John Carney congratulates Elaine Manlove, who retired after 12 years as Delaware’s commissioner of elections in June 2019. (Special to the Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh)

Ms. Manlove’s expansion of voter-registration efforts involved collaboration with the Division of Motor Vehicles to expedite the paper-heavy process by going electronic.

Lawmakers also approved spending $13 million to buy new voting machines to replace others that had been used since 1995, which were described by officials as greatly outdated.

According to Ms. Manlove around the time she retired in 2019, being election commissioner was almost like a dream job. She might have stepped away earlier if not for the process of new selection machines, she said.

“I didn’t think I would work for this long, but we were always doing something. We were always in a project,” she said at the time.

U.S. Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., also expressed sadness at the death of Mr. and Mrs. Manlove.

“Martha and I are devastated to learn of the passing of Elaine and her husband, Wayne. Elaine was a consummate public servant, a visionary and incredibly committed to honest and secure elections.

“One of her greatest professional achievements over her 12 years as elections commissioner was modernizing Delaware’s voting machines, as well as working with the education community to bring elections and civics lessons into Delaware’s classrooms.

“It’s a cruel irony that her passing occurred on the eve of Election Day, after she dedicated her life to protecting the integrity of the elections we hold so dear. Elaine and Wayne recently celebrated their 51st wedding anniversary, and my heart goes out to their children and grandchildren today. May we honor Elaine by ensuring that, this Election Day, every person who wants to vote can vote, and every ballot that is casted is counted. I know that so many across Delaware will be thinking of Elaine today.”

Kent County Levy Court President and Commissioner P. Brooks Banta described Mrs. Manlove as “very easy to work with.

“If there was a problem, she was a problem-solver. She always found a resolution to the issue at hand.”

Mr. Banta said he knew Mrs. Manlove for about 35 years and described her as being “very efficient and professional.

“She answered every phone call, and if she was tied up and you left a message, she always got back to you very quickly.

“Her office was always extremely professional, and Elaine picked and chose great people to work around her. I can’t say enough about how well she conducted her business at all times.”

U.S. Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester, D-Del., reacted to the tragedy by saying, “I loved Elaine Manlove.

“She was the epitome of what citizens might hope their elections commissioner would be — diligent, responsive and, above all, fair.

“I know that Elaine always took immense pride in conducting a fair, free and efficient election, and on this Election Day, I miss her dearly.”

State Attorney General Kathy Jennings also shared her condolences.

“This is a real tragedy,” she said. “It’s a tragedy for everyone in Delaware. Elaine served all the people in Delaware equally. My memories of her is that no matter when you called her or asked her a question or needed something, she was there for you. Always kind, always helpful to others, always put you first. We are so very sad about the passing of Elaine and her husband.”

Also Tuesday, Delaware Democratic Party Chair Erik Raser-Schramm released a statement:

“In the midst of the most consequential election Delaware has ever seen, it feels beyond cruel to have one of its most committed architects taken from us so suddenly and tragically.

“Elaine Manlove dedicated her tenure as the Commissioner of Elections to preserving the sanctity of the vote here in the First State. Former Delaware Democratic Party Chairman John Daniello recommended her for that post because he knew her forward-thinking commitment for free and fair elections would serve Delawareans well.

“Because of her hard work, Delaware continues to be a model for the nation on how to run elections.

“But Elaine was much more to those of us who work in politics than a beloved and respected elections commissioner. She was a mentor and a friend, always offering a smile and a laugh that could cut through the tension of any situation. And though she was always fair and non-partisan, she had an abiding love for Joe Biden and after her retirement last year, made no secret about her support for his presidential campaign.

“While we mourn the death of Elaine and her dear husband Wayne and pray for their family, we are heartened by the thought of them with the best seat in the house to watch Delaware make history.”

According to Delaware State Police, Mrs. Manlove, a 72-year-old Ocean View resident, was driving a vehicle that was rear-ended by a tractor-trailer on northbound U.S. 13 in New Castle at approximately 1:53 p.m. Monday, police said. Her 2019 Chevrolet Equinox was stopped at a red light at the intersection with Red Lion Road when struck.

She and Mr. Manlove, 75, were wearing seat belts at the time, police said. They were transported to Christiana Hospital where they were pronounced deceased, Cpl. Hatchell said.

According to police, the tractor-trailer pushed the Equinox off the roadway upon impact, causing it to spin out of control and strike a tree.

The tractor-trailer driver, a 41-year-old man from Ephrata, Pennsylvania, was not injured, police said.

Police said northbound U.S. 13 between Del. 1 and Hamburg Road was closed for about three hours as the crash was investigated and cleared.
DSP asks anyone with information on the crash to contact Detective Breen of the Troop 2 Collision Reconstruction Unit at 365-8486. Information may also be provided by calling Delaware Crime Stoppers at (800) TIP-3333 or visiting delaware.crimestoppersweb.com.