Commentary: COVID-19 mail-in voting can be done without large price tag

By Rep. Bryan Shupe

The state House of Representatives passed a bill last week that would allow voters concerned about exposure to COVID-19 to cast their ballots by mail.

Under House Bill 346, every registered voter in the state would be sent an application for a mail-in ballot for the state primary in September and the general election in November.

Rep. Bryan Shupe

I am in favor of extending absentee voting and offered a solution during the House floor discussion that would save the taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars compared to the plan that will be executed under HB 346. I ultimately voted “no” on this bill, in opposition to our state government’s continuing fiscally irresponsible, reactionary policies when more prudent alternative measures can achieve the same objective.

The fiscal note on this bill is estimated at $829,000 to mail out affidavits to all registered voters in the state of Delaware. The list of more than 700,000 people is very outdated. I know this by personal experience:
• I received voter registration cards two years ago for previous owners of the house I lived in at the time.
• The state sent out literature using those voter rolls, and I received multiple phone calls from residents who told me that the registered voter had passed away years before. This list has strict guidelines to be purged that include a timeline of two election cycles.

The first round of presidential primary affidavits have been mailed to more than 500,000 voters, but only Democrats and Republicans can vote in Delaware primaries. More than 55,000 were immediately sent back to the Department of Elections as undeliverable (as stated by the election commissioner during consideration of the bill).

My solution is that we do not spend $829,000 of taxpayer money on a process that is fiscally irresponsible. We can simply add COVID-19 to the reasons voters are able to vote absentee in the 2020 general election. Moving forward, with public debate and Legislative Hall open to the people, we can have a larger discussion on absentee ballot provisions to include more people. Adding an additional reason this year due to the pandemic will cost virtually no taxpayer money since it is a one-line item on a form that is already produced by the Department of Elections. We can then use a fraction of that proposed money for a statewide education campaign to promote absentee voting for those who are concerned about COVID-19.

The funding of the $829,000 will come from the CARES Act, which we need to remember is still taxpayer money. After researching the CARES Act restrictions again, this money can be used for other COVID-19 resources, like our hospitals, small businesses and unemployment.

Let us not govern by fiscally irresponsible, reactionary policies when more prudent alternative measures can achieve the same objective.

Rep. Bryan W. Shupe, R-Milford, serves in the Delaware House of Representatives.