Delaware Supreme Court rules vote-by-mail, same-day registration laws are unconstitutional

Delaware’s Supreme Court on Friday ruled that recently passed laws allowing universal vote by mail and same-day registration are unconstitutional, marking a win for state Republicans who had rallyed against the legislation.

The court found that the two moves conflict with the registration and absentee voter categories outlined in the First State’s constitution. It upheld a prior ruling by the state’s vice chancellor, which rejected the vote-by-mail law, while overturning his upholding of the Election Day registration law.

The bills were passed in the final days of the state’s recent General Assembly, which ended in June. Democrats had previously tried to amend the state’s constitution but had not managed to secure the two-thirds support needed.

The constitution allows absentee voting in certain situations, such as an inability to go to the polls due to public services, occupation or disability. The Democratic attorney general had argued that mail-in voting was not absentee voting. Meanwhile, Delaware’s constitution says that registration cannot end less than 10 days before the election.

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The court found that the vote-by-mail statute “impermissibly expands the categories of absentee voters” and that the registration statute, which allows registration all the way until Election Day, contradicts the limits placed on the registration.

Republicans expressed satisfaction at the ruling. Jane Brady, state GOP chair and former attorney general, told Fox News Digital that she was “very pleased that the court upheld the language of the constitution.”

“This is a win for the rule of law,” she said. Brady argued against the changes in court, and Republican attorney general candidate Julianne Moore represented the lawsuit in opposition to the changes to mail-in voting.

Brady also dismissed concerns that the ruling would restrict voting ahead of the general election next month.

Gualala, CA, July 4, 2020 — Person mailing United States absentee ballot for voting in an election by mail.

“Anyone who has voted in a general election in the past can vote the same way they always have, because there have been zero general elections held since those laws were passed, and they’ve never had any impact on a voter’s conduct,” she said. “The court’s ruling essentially maintains the status quo and the same laws that have always been in effect are in effect on November 8.”

A spokesperson for Gov. John Carney said that he was “disappointed” with the outcome.

“The Governor’s position has been simple and consistent. We should make it easier — not harder — for all eligible Delawareans to vote and participate in our democratic process,” Emily David Hershman told Fox News Digital.

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Delaware AG Kathy Jennings, meanwhile, took aim at Republicans, accusing them of “showing us the lengths they’ll go to stop the people from voting.”

Democratic leaders in the state’s legislature said the issue showed the need for constitutional reform.

Governor of Delaware John C. Carney Jr.  speaks at the Delaware Memorial Day Ceremony, in New Castle, DE, on May 30, 2019.

Governor of Delaware John C. Carney Jr. speaks at the Delaware Memorial Day Ceremony, in New Castle, DE, on May 30, 2019.
(Bastiaan Slabbers/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

“Unfortunately, the Supreme Court’s decision reinforces that our previous efforts to amend Delaware’s constitution for voting is more important now than ever,” House Speaker Pete Schwartzopf and Majority Leader Valerie Longhurst said in a joint statement.

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The Senate Republican leadership noted that Republicans in the General Assembly had argued that the bills violated the constitution — a view shared by the Supreme Court.

“The sponsors and Democrats ignored our concerns, dismissed expert legal testimony, and passed both pieces of legislation anyway,” Senate Republican Leader Gerald Hocker and Republican Whip Brian Pettyjohn said in a statement. “Today, however, the rule of law prevailed.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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