Follow Us

Delaware’s attorney general to appeal ruling striking down early voting

A lawsuit filed by plaintiffs Michael Mennella and Delaware Senate Republican Minority Leader Gerald Hocker, R-Ocean View, challenged the constitutionality of the state's early and absentee voting laws.

Published: February 28, 2024 11:00pm

(The Center Square) -

(The Center Square) — Delaware's attorney general plans to appeal a recent court ruling striking down the state's early voting law and is throwing her support behind a constitutional amendment updating election law to legalize early voting.

Last week, a Superior Court judge rejected a request by state elections officials to dismiss a Republican complaint alleging that the early voting and permanent absentee voting statutes violate the First State's Constitution.

But Attorney General Kathy Jennings, a Democrat, said her office "respectfully but fundamentally" disagrees with this ruling and will appeal the decision to the state's highest court.

"No idea that requires silence to survive has any place in a democracy," Jennings said in a statement. "But that is precisely the fight we’re having: in statehouses and courthouses alike, extremists are trying to empower losing ideas by eroding the right to vote itself."

In the previous state election, the attorney general said 56,000 Delawareans used early voting, and roughly 21,000 — including veterans, people with disabilities, and caregivers — used permanent absentee ballots.

"If it withstands appeal, Friday’s ruling would impact all of them in the November general election," she said. "Regardless of your party, where you live, or how you vote, you deserve every chance to exercise that right."

A lawsuit filed by plaintiffs Michael Mennella and Delaware Senate Republican Minority Leader Gerald Hocker, R-Ocean View, challenged the constitutionality of the state's early and absentee voting laws.

In a ruling issued last week, Superior Court judge Mark Connor said the state Constitution sets only one day for general elections, which conflicts with the state's early voting statute, allowing at least 10 days of early balloting. He said the Legislature exceeded its authority by approving the expanded mail and early voting law.

The legal challenge followed a 2022 ruling by the state Supreme Court, which held that the state's vote-by-mail statute "impermissibly" expanded categories of absentee voters in Delaware’s Constitution.

Delaware's Constitution allows "absentee" voting if a person cannot go to the polls on Election Day because of his or her public service, business or occupation because of sickness or physical disability, vacation, or if they claim religious objections.

In a statement, Hocker and other Republicans said they "take no issue" with in-person early voting and noted that it's "a convenience that many Delawareans have embraced and has been accepted by voters nationwide."

"Our main objection to the statute was that it violated the state constitution," the GOP lawmakers said in a statement. "We applaud the court for validating the arguments we made five years ago."

Hocker said he plans to introduce a constitutional amendment to "correctly implement the form of early voting that Delawareans used in the last election cycle, taking care to address the court’s objections."

Meanwhile, Jennings said she is backing a Democratic proposal, filed in response to the Supreme Court's 2022 ruling, that would amend the state's Constitution to authorize expanded mail and early voting.

The Facts Inside Our Reporter's Notebook

Links

Just the News Spotlight