DOVER - Republican legislators on Friday introduced five measures they say are designed to improve Delaware’s voting system for all .
In a statement, GOP supporters detailed what they believe will come with the passage of three bills and two concurrent resolutions, including:
• Establish the Registered Voter List Improvement Task Force.
• Review best practices to improve the verification of absentee ballot signatures.
• Increase penalties for voter fraud.
• Reform voter identification standards.
• Reform the standards for absentee ballot requests.
“All we’re trying to do is pass legislation that would guarantee each and every vote is cast fairly. I don’t think that’s too much to ask,” said State Sen. Gerald Hocker, of Georgetown.
“We need to clean up this process. It shouldn’t be a Republican issue, it should be an integrity issue. Everyone should want a vote to be conducted fairly.”
A voter list task force would “review current laws and practices associated with compiling and maintaining Delaware’s registered voter list and suggesting methods for improving its accuracy,” the news release said.
“The registered voter list is often used by state lawmakers and many others to perform constituent mailings and conduct other public outreach,” said prime sponsor State Sen. Dave Wilson of Lincoln.
“Anytime I’ve done a mailing using it, I always get back a lot of undelivered pieces.”
Republicans cited testimony by State Election Commissioner Anthony J. Albence regarding the vote-by-mail presidential primary on July 7, which they said noted the return of roughly 55,000 undeliverable ballots returned to the agency.
“The number of ballots that were sent to the wrong residence but were not returned is unknown,” according to the news release.
A House concurrent resolution will increase scrutiny on signatures on absentee ballots through review by the Department of Elections, according to supporters. A report of findings would be issued to the governor and state lawmakers afterward.
“Given the nature of voting by absentee, it’s too easy for fraud to occur,” said resolution sponsor State Rep. Mike Ramone of Pike Creek South.
“If we’re doing everything right, then we have nothing to worry about, but I suspect there is room for improvement that will give voters the confidence they need in knowing that our absentee voting system is as secure as possible.”
A House bill would be aimed at increased penalties for illegal voting. An illegal voting crime would move from being an unclassified offense to a Class G non-violent felony, and fines would increase from between $50 and $200 to a minimum of $1,000 for a first offense and a minimum of $2,000 for any offense that follows.
“The way the law is currently written, I do not think the penalties reflect the seriousness of the crime,” said House primary sponsor State Rep. Jesse Vanderwende of Bridgeville.
“Illegal voting undermines the public’s confidence in the voting system and that is something we cannot stand for.”
Citizens would be required to identify themselves with a valid polling place card by presenting one of 13 different type of photo ID, according to another proposed bill.
According to prime sponsor State Rep. Rich Collins, of Millsboro, “Citizens understand that they have to show ID to do almost anything in the real world. One of the biggest responsibilities we have as citizens is casting a vote, and most citizens believe that if you are going to vote, you should do so legally.
“Without requiring an ID, it is easy to game the system.”
Absentee ballot requests could only be processed after voters provided a form of photo identification to the Department of Elections, according to another bill. The legislation would provide universal standards for casting votes, the bill’s prime sponsor, State Rep. Lyndon Yearick, of Camden-Wyoming, said.
“I think it is hypocritical to require one form of ID for voting in-person, but to not require the same for any other channel where an individual can vote,” he said.