State representative receives wrong ballot through mail

DOVER — State Rep. Bryan Shupe recently received his vote-by-mail ballot containing the Democratic candidates for his area for Tuesday’s primary election.

There’s only one problem — he’s a Republican.

Bryan Shupe

Rep. Shupe, who was elected to the Milford-area 36th Representative District in 2018, made a video over the weekend about the mistake, hoping to make sure people know how they can participate in voting Tuesday.

Delaware has a closed primary, meaning Republicans can only vote for Republicans and Democrats can only vote for Democrats.

Rep. Shupe was among the GOP lawmakers who spoke in opposition in June to expanded voting by mail, expressing concern the process could be ripe for fraud or mistakes. He reiterated that Monday in a brief interview, saying he’s heard from constituents who received a ballot for a prior resident or a dead relative, as well as some who got a ballot with the wrong address.

The issue, he said, comes back to Delaware’s voter rolls. The list of hundreds of thousands of names are out of date, something all candidates learn if they get the list from the state to target voters, Rep. Shupe said.

“Every time anyone does a large mailing using these lists, they get at least 10% back as undeliverable,” Rep. Shupe said. “And that does not count the pieces of mail that are incorrectly sent to a home where the resident just tosses it in the trash without informing anyone of the error.”

State election commissioner Anthony Albence did not respond to an email seeking comment.

While Delaware still has its normal polling places open, citizens can choose instead to take part in the primary remotely. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the General Assembly temporarily expanded absentee voting earlier this year, waiving the provision requiring one of several specific excuses to cast a ballot remotely.

For the primary, individuals wishing to vote by mail had to fill out an application and submit it to the Department of Elections.

It’s not clear exactly what the record is for ballots submitted by mail, but this year’s total is sure to dwarf it. In the 2016 presidential primary, for instance, about 164,000 votes were cast. Around 5,000, or 3%, were absentee.

In July’s presidential primary, in contrast, there were approximately 124,000 ballots, of which about 56,000, or 45%, were absentee (full vote-by-mail was not yet in place). Interestingly, just 30% of Republican voters took part by mail, while 51% of Democratic participants did so.

Rep. Shupe, who registered as a Democrat when he turned 18 but has been part of the GOP for the past 15 years, said he brought the error to Sussex County elections director Kenneth McDowell, in whom he expressed confidence.

Nonetheless, he is concerned the kinks will not be ironed out in time for the general election, which is in less than two months. He expects legislators will need to take a look at what they can do to support the Department of Elections and purge its voter rolls of invalid entries when the General Assembly returns in January.

And as for his ballot? Well, he will just vote in person Tuesday.