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Delaware primary shows partisan divide in remote voting

Campaign signs line the entrance to St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Tuesday during primary voting.
Campaign signs line the entrance to St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Tuesday during primary voting.

The state election commissioner is happy about the handling of “a tremendous increase in absentee and vote by mail” in Tuesday’s primary.

The chair of the Delaware Republican Party believes people with health issues should be able to vote without going to the polls but notes the party is challenging vote by mail for the general election.

The director of the Delaware Democratic Party is pleased how well absentee and vote by mail went and how popular they were.

Remote voting – also called voted absentee and voted mail ballots – is a partisan issue in Delaware and across the U.S., and that divide was demonstrated in Delaware’s primary.

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Voter turnout Tuesday was 32.26 percent, with 177,519 of the 550,288 registered voters casting a ballot. For the Democrats, 63,315 of the 121,343 ballots were cast absentee. For the Republicans, 13,069 of the 56,186 ballots were cast absentee, said Anthony Albence, the state election commissioner

“Clearly, Republicans don’t favor the use of remote voting, by mail or absentee,” Jane Brady, the Delaware Republican Party chair, said in an interview.

“We want anyone who believes their health would be adversely affected if they voted in person, to vote absentee,” she said in August, when the party and two voters sued. “But we believe the vote by mail statute passed by the General Assembly is not constitutional in Delaware, and that the system is more subject to fraud than absentee ballots or voting in person.”


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Final briefs in the Republican lawsuit are due Monday in the Court of Chancery, with a ruling promised by Sept. 28, Brady said.

Milford resident Lois Studte passed along a rumor that the envelopes for remote voting were marked D and R so that postal workers can trash envelopes from one party or another, depending on who’s spreading the lie.

“I don’t believe it,” she said, adding that she would appreciate the truth.

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The truth, from the state’s top election official: “We use the party affiliation on the envelopes to make sure the correct party ballot is sent to the voter,” Albence said. “The ballots for a general election are not differentiated by party, and the party affiliation will not appear on the ballot envelopes for the general election.”

In the primary, “We are happy how things went overall,” Albence said. “We were pleased that we were able to make the transition to a tremendous increase in absentee and vote by mail volume, while staffing traditional polling places, and to still be able to report all results on Election Night.”

That’s a quick turnaround. Other states have taken weeks, or months to get theirs in, according to national news sources.

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“For the General Election, we will focus on continuing to be as efficient as we can in servicing our voters who request absentee and vote by mail ballots, and we will continue to be focused on recruiting as many poll workers as we can, continue to educate everyone about our still new voting equipment, and to continue to make the absentee and vote by mail process as efficient as possible,” Albence said.

“There were a handful of problems at individual polling places,’ said Jesse Chadderdon, executive director of Delaware Democratic Party said. “But by all sorts of objective measures, it went pretty well.”

Delaware’s Democrats will “continue to educate voters on all their options,” he said.

Party members “have always believed that voting should be easy and Delawareans should be given as many ways as possible to vote,” Chadderdon said, citing people who work on election day and those with health concerns.