A stunning, unexpected landmark ruling came out of nowhere from a most unlikely place – Joe Biden’s backyard – and on an unlikely issue: voter integrity.
The Delaware Supreme Court found unanimously that recently passed laws allowing universal vote-by-mail and same-day registration are unconstitutional, marking a win for state Republicans who had rallied against the legislation.
As a result, with the decision coming less than a month ahead the Nov. 8 general election, Delawareans will be voting as they did before the pandemic of 2020. The Department of Elections was preparing to send mail ballots to voters on Oct. 10. The ruling means Delaware will return to its more limited process where one must vote in person or have an excuse to vote absentee, and a prospective voter must register weeks in advance of an election to cast a ballot.
The court found that the two provisions conflict with the registration and absentee voter stipulations outlined in the First State’s constitution. It upheld a prior ruling by the state’s vice chancellor, which rejected the vote-by-mail law, while overturning his upholding of the Election Day registration law.
The bills were passed in the final days of the state’s recent General Assembly, which ended in June. Democrats had previously tried to amend the state’s constitution but had not managed to secure the two-thirds support needed.
The Delaware Constitution allows absentee voting in certain situations, such as an inability to go to the polls due to public services, occupation or disability. The Democratic attorney general had argued that mail-in voting was not absentee voting. Meanwhile, the state’s constitution says that registration cannot end less than 10 days before the election.
The court ruled against same-day registration as well.
The court found that the vote-by-mail statute “impermissibly expands the categories of absentee voters” and that the registration statute, which allows registration all the way until Election Day, contradicts the limits placed on the registration.
Republicans expressed satisfaction at the ruling. Jane Brady, state GOP chair and former attorney general, said she was “very pleased that the court upheld the language of the constitution.”
“This is a win for the rule of law,” she said. Brady argued against the changes in court, and Republican attorney general candidate Julianne Moore represented the lawsuit in opposition to the changes to mail-in voting.
But it came as a shock to Gov. John C. Carney and Democrats.
“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,” Emily David Hershman said. “Anyone who has voted in a general election in the past can vote the same way they always have, because there have been zero general elections held since those laws were passed, and they’ve never had any impact on a voter’s conduct. The court’s ruling essentially maintains the status quo and the same laws that have always been in effect are in effect on November 8.”
Delaware AG Kathy Jennings, meanwhile, took aim at Republicans, accusing them of “showing us the lengths they’ll go to stop the people from voting.”
“Unfortunately, the Supreme Court’s decision reinforces that our previous efforts to amend Delaware’s constitution for voting is more important now than ever,” House Speaker Pete Schwartzopf and Majority Leader Valerie Longhurst said in a joint statement.
The Senate Republican leadership noted that Republicans in the General Assembly had argued that the bills violated the constitution – a view shared by the Supreme Court, mostly fair-minded Republicans who supported the original state constitution of the First State to vote to join the union.
“The sponsors and Democrats ignored our concerns, dismissed expert legal testimony, and passed both pieces of legislation anyway,” Senate Republican Leader Gerald Hocker and Republican Whip Brian Pettyjohn said in a statement. “Today, however, the rule of law prevailed.”
And thus begins the rollback from free-for-all voting in a pandemic “emergency.”
Democrats are livid. Keep your eye on Delaware for election results next month. The blue state might be in play.
In 2020, lawmakers, citing “emergency powers,” temporarily expanded absentee voting by mailing ballots to registered voters, due to concerns at the time of high COVID-19 infection rates.
Thankfully, Republicans in the state are getting wise to such ploys. It will now require a constitutional amendment for Democrats to loosen voter-integrity measures, not just the claim of “emergency powers.”
This was a great victory for outnumbered Republicans in the tiny state that serves as Biden’s refuge.
It’s an example of how you take back America one state at a time.
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