LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Improving access to voting in Delaware

A vote means much more than just a push of a button.

A vote shapes who represents our values and our ideals. It has the power to shift the conversation around job growth, education, health care and criminal justice reform.

That’s why it’s so critical to engage all Delawareans in the electoral process. House Bill 89 does just that. This bill aligns Delaware’s primary elections with its presidential primary elections to foster more opportunities for people to vote.

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Stephanie Bolden

Sponsored by a bipartisan group of 14 legislators from both chambers, the bill would move all state primaries to the fourth Tuesday in April. The change would take effect with the presidential election in 2020, but it also would move “off-year” elections like in 2022 or 2026 to the same Tuesday.

Delaware should follow suit, as surrounding states Maryland, New Jersey and Pennsylvania are among the 17 states that already hold their state and presidential primaries on the same day. The consolidation move would also save the state $1 million, and with our recent budget challenges, every saved dollar makes an impact.

Currently, Delaware holds its presidential and state primaries for statewide and local races on different dates, months apart, which creates confusion for voters. Press reports have chronicled people showing up for the presidential primary in April and asking why they couldn’t vote for a gubernatorial or congressional candidate.

On top of the confusion, turnout is historically less for state primaries. In the 2016 state primary, for instance, 18.5 percent of registered voters cast a ballot. But, that number nearly doubled to 33 percent for the presidential primary. This is a problem for both Democrats and Republicans.

We have the opportunity to foster wide-ranging change, which could benefit groups of people throughout the state from the children in our schools to seniors making plans for their health care and retirement. With this change, people in the service and living abroad would also have more time to participate in the process.

A robust democracy works best when everyone participates. We should make sure our working families have the opportunity to have their voices heard and are able to be a vital part of the legislative process.

HB 89 was passed in the House of Representatives, and has been assigned to the Senate Elections and Government Affairs Committee.

Stephanie T. Bolden
Democratic state representative for District 2

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