The Delaware House passed “motor voter” registration and a measure that moves primary elections from September to April.
House Bill 30 would move Delaware’s state primary elections to coincide with its presidential primary elections in April.
Currently, Delaware holds its presidential primaries for both major parties on the fourth Tuesday in April. The primaries for statewide and local political offices are held on the second Tuesday after the first Monday in September.
Three Democrats and one Republican voted no on the bill.
Sponsors said the separate dates could confuse voters, while turnout for the state primary dramatically drops off from the presidential primary. The change would take effect with the presidential election in 2024, but it also would move “off-year” elections (2026, 2030, etc.) to the same Tuesday.
In 2020, 21 states held their state and presidential primaries on the same day, including New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York, Maryland, and California. Ten of these states held or were scheduled to hold their primaries on or before the current date for Delaware’s presidential primary, which is the fourth Tuesday in April.
In 2020, Delaware had the latest state primary in the country, seven weeks before Election Day. Delaware primaries are so late that the state constantly must obtain waivers for federal requirements for overseas and military ballots. This means Delawareans living overseas have very little time to receive, consider and return their ballots.
The House also passed Senate Bill 5, which would create an automatic “motor voter” registration system at the Delaware Division of Motor Vehicles.
Interestingly enough, the motor voter bill passed with only one no vote in the House but was approved on a party-line vote in the Senate. Republicans typically are not in favor of bills that make voting easier, usually citing election security concerns.
Republicans recently introduced measures they claimed were needed to reduce election fraud.
“Establishing automatic voter registration in Delaware allows for more voices to be heard, reduces errors, and boosts security for everyone in our state,” said Rep. David Bentz, the lead House sponsor. “Voting is a fundamental right, and I commend all of my colleagues for prioritizing election reform in the state of Delaware.”
Currently, Delawareans are asked if they would like to register or re-register as voters whenever they engage in a transaction at their local DMV. They then must provide detailed information to complete the voter registration process.
SB 5 would permit all driver’s license applications to also serve as voter registration applications and allow Delaware DMV to share the information collected on those forms with the Delaware Department of Elections for that purpose whenever an applicant shows proof of U.S. citizenship. Anyone who does not provide proof of U.S. citizenship will not be registered to vote and will not have their information forwarded to the Department of Elections.
HB 30 now goes to the Senate for consideration. SB 5 goes to Gov. John Carney for his signature.