Commentary: Taking a closer look at HB 75, the absentee-voting bill

By Rep. Bryan W. Shupe
Posted 1/22/22

Thank you to the residents that have talked with me by phone or in person regarding the House Bill 75 absentee-voting bill. We have had great discussions about the future of voting in Delaware, and I …

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Commentary: Taking a closer look at HB 75, the absentee-voting bill

Posted

Thank you to the residents that have talked with me by phone or in person regarding the House Bill 75 absentee-voting bill. We have had great discussions about the future of voting in Delaware, and I welcome the continued dialogue.

Several residents have reached out to me after they received a postcard in the mail or email about HB 75. Most have indicated that they are concerned that they received mail asking them to support the measure without the postcard identifying where it is from or what the bill does.

It also has been brought to my attention the local branch of the national organization Common Cause will be canvassing our neighborhoods in an attempt to convince residents how HB 75 must be supported to protect absentee-ballot procedures. While HB 75 aims to expand absentee voting to all registered voters for any reason, it does so in a way that allows elected officials to create new election rules to benefit their own party in the next election cycle, by a simple majority vote.

I do support absentee-ballot voting for Delawareans for any reason, through verification, and do support the intent of the bill. What I do not support in this bill are the effects, whether intended or not, it will have on future elections as it is currently written. As HB 75 now stands, the rules and procedures of future elections would be taken out of the Delaware Constitution and placed into the hands of the General Assembly. This means that new election rules, which could on one end of the spectrum aim to loosen election accountability or on the other end seek to suppress voters, will only need a majority vote of lawmakers to pass, instead of a two-thirds vote from the General Assembly in two consecutive sessions.

Examples of new election laws that I have heard discussed from both sides of the political aisle over the years include ballots being directly mailed to all eligible voters in Delaware, opening voting to residents that are not currently Delaware residents but who work in the state, or requiring multiple forms of identification and in-person voting. In any of these cases, the majority at that time would set rules for the next election cycle, and they would likely do so to benefit themselves.

I have stated the above numerous times on the House floor and in public and drafted a bill, similar to HB 75, that would use language that both allows the expansion of absentee voting for any reason and protects the election procedures and rules in the Delaware Constitution.

I have talked with the sponsor and House majority leader and let them know that I will not be voting for the current version of HB 75 but that I will continue to spearhead an effort to seek support for a new bill that allows absentee voting for any reason, while protecting the integrity of our elections. HB 75 has become a political fight when, like most times, there is another way that can accomplish both critical goals.

In addition to the above bill, the Municipal Voting Rights Bill (HB 146) I created, which eliminates double-registration requirements for local town elections when residents are already registered to vote in the state of Delaware, became a casualty of this political fight last year. I hope that cooler heads will prevail and HB 146 can become law, so that voting access for individuals in 45 out of 57 of Delaware’s municipalities can be expanded for those that have already verified their eligibility to vote in the First State.

HB 146 can be found at legis.delaware.gov/BillDetail?LegislationId=58558.

Rep. Bryan W. Shupe is a Republican who serves the city of Milford.