Delaware officials assure mail-in voting is secure, send mail ballot 'as early as you can'
During a briefing with Gov. John Carney on Wednesday, Elections Commissioner Anthony Albence urged Delawareans who are voting in the 2020 elections to return their mail-in ballots as soon as possible.
"Return your application and subsequently your ballot as early as you can," Albence said. "The sooner the better, can't stress that enough."
Albence's advice comes after the United States Postal Service in July warned in a letter to Delaware's Elections Department that the postal service cannot adjust its deliveries "to accommodate the requirements of state election law," and absentee voters in the general election need to receive and mail their ballots at least a week before Election Day for votes to count.
Delaware law allows the Department to mail ballots out four days before election day, and Albence is asking voters to send applications for vote-by-mail at least one week before the day of the election for the state primary. He said the General Assembly may have to change the law for future elections in light of the postal service warning.
NEW GRANTS FOR BUSINESSES, NONPROFITS:Delaware announces $100 million grant program for businesses to cover coronavirus expenses
State officials met with regional Postal Service managers to "get some feel and confidence" that they have the means to process mail on time, Carney said.
Carney told Delawareans planning to submit their ballots by mail to "do it early so that there is no question about the processing."
"We want to make it easier for people to exercise their right to vote, and to do it safely," Carney said. "Don't make the decision not to vote because you're afraid of going to a polling place and catching the virus, particularly if you're in that vulnerable population."
MAIL-IN AND POST OFFICE:Want your vote to count? Postal Service says ballots must be mailed a week before election
Voters who have received mail-in ballots but find themselves second-guessing the mail-in process can still vote in person before returning their ballot. Those voters can go to their assigned polling place and poll workers will contact the county's elections office and void the mail-in ballot so that the voter can vote in person. The voter can't vote in person if their mail-in ballot was already returned.
Voters can also drop off their mail-in ballot themselves at the elections office of the county that they live in.
BUSINESSES HOPE FOR BOOST IN PANDEMIC:Wilmington businesses hope for a boost during Democratic National Convention media frenzy
The General Assembly in June passed a bill that allows universal mail-in voting for the 2020 elections so that voters would be able to cast their ballots without fear of spreading coronavirus at the polls. Unlike Delaware's traditional absentee system, voters won't need to give an excuse to vote by mail.
The briefing came the same afternoon as the Delaware Republican Party announced that they are suing the state and the Elections Department over the universal mail-in legislation. The lawsuit claims that the new law is unconstitutional and “threatens the integrity of election results with problems arising from untimely delivery of mail and ballots being rejected for non-compliance with the required standards.”
When asked about the lawsuit during the briefing, Albence declined to comment.
Only registered Democrats and Republicans can vote in the state primary on Sept. 15, and can only vote for candidates in their party. All voters will be able to vote in the general election on Nov. 3.
JILL BIDEN AT DNC:Read Jill Biden's full convention speech
Mail-in ballots are optional and aren't mailed automatically, but the state is mailing applications for mail-in ballots to registered Democrats and Republicans for this election. The state plans on keeping all of its polling places open for the election while maintaining social distancing and sanitation at the polls.
Delaware is a ballot-in-hand state, meaning the returned ballot has to be in the hands of elections officials by 8 p.m. on election day, which is when the polls close.
Albence said that "internal systems and controls" ensure that voters can only have one active ballot in an election, and can't vote more than once.
KAMALA'S PRIVATE ARMY:Why Kamala Harris' HBCU, Greek affiliations could help Joe Biden's campaign
"We have those safeguards in place and they are very secure and very robust," Albence said.
The deadline to register for the election is Saturday, Aug. 22. Delawareans can register at https://ivote.de.gov. The deadline to change parties for the state primary has passed.
Despite the virus and most polling places being closed, voting in person was still the most popular choice among Delawareans — especially supporters of President Donald Trump — who cast ballots in the July 7 presidential primary, according to data from the Department of Elections.
The second most popular form of voting was by mail, where about 50,700 voters chose that method. A few thousand people returned their ballot entirely online, and more may have gone that route if the Elections Department had not discontinued the online method in mid-June over security concerns.
SCHOOLS AND CORONAVIRUS:Parents want to know: If someone in school tests positive for COVID-19, who gets notified?
A little less than 2,000 people used the email method, and 232 people faxed their ballot in. Only 70 voters chose to drop off their ballot at the Elections Department on July 7.
Turnout was 23 percent in the July 7 election, which was a closed primary and only gave voters their choice of presidential candidates. The state expects a much higher turnout in September and November, where contested federal, state and local offices will all be on the ballot.
Nervous about the mail? Here's where you can drop off your ballot
If you're nervous about the Post Office getting your ballot getting to the Elections Department on time, you can drop it off yourself at the elections office of the county that you live in.
PROGRESSIVE CANDIDATES IN DELAWARE:Do Delaware progressive candidates have a shot in 2020 after coronavirus hurt campaigning?
Each office is open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Sussex County Department of Elections Office
119 N. Race Street
P.O. Box 457
Georgetown DE 19947
Kent County Department of Elections Office
100 Enterprise Place
Dover DE 19904
New Castle County Department of Elections Office
Carvel State Office Building
820 North French Street
Wilmington DE 19801
*A drop box is also available in the lobby of the building, which is open from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.
New Castle County Warehouse and Training Center
220 Lisa Dr
New Castle DE 19720
*The drop box is located at the south (far) end of the building
SEVERAL REPUBLICANS RUNNING FOR GOVERNOR:Republicans line up to challenge Gov. John Carney in 2020 election
If you didn't get a ballot application in the mail, you can request it by fax, email or online at https://ivote.de.gov.
Karl Baker contributed to this report.
Sarah Gamard covers government and politics for Delaware Online/The News Journal. You can reach her at (302) 324-2281 or firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also follow her on Twitter @SarahGamard.