Panel Releases D.E. Williams Bill to Modernize Absentee Voting

DOVER – The House Administration Committee released legislation Wednesday that would increase voters’ ability to cast an absentee ballot in elections.

Currently, 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, caring for a family member who lives at home and depends on constant care, on vacation, or religious reasons.

Sponsored by Reps. Dennis E. Williams, Earl Jaques and John Kowalko, House Bill 191 would modernize permissible absentee voting reasons to include those who are unable to appear at the polling place because their job may require travel or work that might prevent them from voting on Election Day. It also updates an allowance for a person providing care to a parent, spouse or child. HB 191 allows a person who provides care to an immediate family member more flexibility in voting absentee.

"We should be looking for opportunities to increase voter turnout, not restrict it,” said Rep. Williams, D-Talleyville/Claymont. “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. The current law does not allow for these ‘might happen’ situations. You cannot swear out an affidavit for an absentee ballot under those circumstances.”

HB 191 also eliminates the requirement to have any affidavit requesting an absentee ballot be notarized.

The bill now goes to the full House for consideration.