Jaques to Reintroduce ‘No-Excuse’ Absentee Voting Bill

WILMINGTON – Calling voting a right and privilege that should be afforded to every Delawarean, Rep. Earl Jaques announced Tuesday that he will file legislation to increase participation in elections.

The draft measure would extend absentee voting to all eligible Delaware voters by removing several requirements limiting when a person can vote by absentee ballot. Under current law, absentee voting is limited to only those who are unable to physically make it to their polling place on Election Day. Those reasons are limited to eight situations, such as: in the Armed Forces, sick or physically disabled, on vacation or religious reasons.

“We teach our children that voting is a fundamental component of our democracy. This is an excellent way to live that principle – by increasing access to voting for all Delawareans,” said Rep. Jaques, D-Glasgow. “The reasons for allowing residents to vote absentee are surprisingly narrow and require people to swear out an affidavit that they won’t be present on Election Day. In today’s world, people travel for work on a moment’s notice. They can be called upon to care for a sick or elderly family member. A single parent working two jobs doesn’t necessarily get Election Day off and might not be able to spend an hour waiting at the polls.

“The current law does not allow for these ‘might happen’ situations. You cannot swear out an affidavit for an absentee ballot under those circumstances. Allowing any Delawarean to request an absentee ballot gives everyone an equal opportunity to have their voice heard.”

The proposal was first introduced during the 147th General Assembly in 2013, but House Bill 20 failed along party lines. The draft measure would be the first leg of a constitutional amendment. If it passes the General Assembly during this two-year session, an identical version must pass the 149th General Assembly, which begins in 2017.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 27 states and Washington, D.C., already have no-excuse absentee voting. Neighboring states New Jersey and Maryland are among those states.

Rep. Jaques expects to introduce the measure when the House returns to session in March.