Delaware Supreme Court: Universal mail-in voting, same-day registration are unconstitutional

by Samantha Flom

Photo: Adobe Stock

Two laws related to mail-in voting and same-day registration were declared unconstitutional by the Delaware Supreme Court on Thursday.

According to the abbreviated order, the court unanimously ruled that the state’s recent vote-by-mail statute “impermissibly expands the categories of absentee voters” identified in Article V, Section 4A of Delaware’s constitution. Likewise, the court held that the same-day registration statute also violated the provisions of Article V, Section 4.

Noting the time constraint imposed by the upcoming elections on Nov. 8, the three-page opinion added that a formal opinion with a more thorough explanation would follow “in due course,” but that the mandate would be effective immediately.

Under the Delaware Constitution, there must be at least two voter registration days within a period “commencing not more than one hundred and twenty days, nor less than sixty days before, and ending not more than twenty days, nor less than ten days before, each General Election.”

Further, the law restricts absentee voting to qualified, registered voters who are unable to cast a ballot in person “either because of being in the public service of the United States or of this State, or his or her spouse or dependents when residing with or accompanying him or her because of the nature of his or her business or occupation, because of his or her sickness or physical disability, because of his or her absence from the district while on vacation, or because of the tenets or teachings of his or her religion.”

Thursday’s ruling partially affirmed and partially reversed a previous judgment from the Delaware Court of Chancery, which held that the vote-by-mail statute was unconstitutional but that the same-day registration statute was not.

According to Delaware Online, the ruling also came as election officials across the state were preparing to mail out absentee ballots on Oct. 10. With the Democrat-supported legislation now struck down, voters will need to have a valid reason to vote by mail and must register to vote by Oct. 15.

Since the 2020 election, courts across the country have been forced to address the blatant disregard for existing election laws displayed by many states during the Covid pandemic.

In July, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled that the use of drop boxes to collect absentee ballots was unconstitutional, yet the boxes were used in counties across the state during the 2020 presidential election.

Upon learning of Thursday’s ruling, Julianne Murray, Republican candidate for attorney general of Delaware, praised the decision on Twitter.

“WE WON!” she tweeted Friday. “I am delighted with the decision. I obviously thought that the statute was unconstitutional but to have the highest court in Delaware agree is very validating.”

In a subsequent tweet, she continued, “I was very concerned that the General Assembly believed that they had broad enough powers to ignore another provision of the Delaware Constitution. This decision reigns that in.”

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