DE high court: Vote-by-mail, same-day registration laws unconstitutional

Dashing the hopes of President Joe Biden and other Democrats on edge about possible losses in the upcoming midterm elections, the Delaware Supreme Court Friday declared unconstitutional a pair of new laws in the state permitting universal mail-in balloting and same-day voter registration, as Fox News reports.

The outcome represents a major victory for Republicans in the state who stood in staunch opposition to the measures Delaware Democrats believed could bolster turnout for their side in the potentially pivotal November contests.

Impermissible expansion

The case at issue revolved around the question of whether the Delaware constitution could be interpreted to provide for all registered voters to cast ballots via mail and whether it could allow for individuals to register to vote on Election Day itself.

While Democrats contended that recently passed bills allowing for precisely those processes were fully in line with the state constitution, the court held that they are in direct conflict with provisions contained therein.

As such, the court upheld a previous decision from the vice chancellor of the state in which the mail-in voting law was upended, while also overturning the same official’s earlier opinion permitting same-day voter registration.

Though the Delaware constitution does permit absentee voting under some conditions, and Democrats argued that mail-in voting is different than absentee voting, the state’s high court found that unrestricted casting of ballots by post “impermissibly expands” the class of absentee voters discussed in the document.

In addition, the state constitution specifically states that voter registration in general election cycles may not commence more than 120 days or fewer than 60 days in advance, and may not conclude more than 20 or fewer than 10 days ahead of Election Day, and the high court determined that the new statute providing for same-day registration simply runs counter to the aforementioned constitutional parameters.

Reactions pour in

As expected, GOP opponents of the statues passed this summer hailed the high court’s decision as the only appropriate outcome, with state Republican Party chairwoman Jane Brady stating, as the Washington Examiner noted, “I am very pleased the court recognized that the language of the constitution really matters.”

“This is a win for the rule of law,” Brady added, echoing the sentiments of many others in her party.

Democrat House Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf and Majority Leader Valerie Longhurst, however, issued a statement expressing their disappointment, saying, “Unfortunately, the Supreme Court’s decision reinforces that our previous efforts to amend Delaware’s constitution for voting is more important now than ever,” referencing an unsuccessful attempt earlier this year to marshal the two-thirds support of the legislature needed to do so.

A spokesperson for Democrat Gov. John Carney indicated his disappointment with the court’s decision, adding, “the governor’s position has been simple and consistent. We should make it easier – not harder – for all eligible Delawareans to vote and participate in our democratic process.”

The decision has put a stop to a Delaware Department of Elections plan to send mail-in ballots to voters on Oct. 10, and as of now, voters in the First State will need to request absentee ballots by Oct. 15, or simply appear at the polls on Nov. 8, in what many surely view as a welcome return to pre-pandemic norms in which the risk of fraud is arguably – perhaps even greatly – reduced.