Yesterday House Bill 41, the bill that would move the state primary to the last Tuesday in April, was on the Ready List to be acted on in the Senate. An Amendment was placed with the bill late Wednesday to make the change effective in 2024. The bill, without the Amendment, would take affect immediately, as of January 1, 2020, and thus move the primary this year to April 28, and the filing deadline for that primary to February 25. Some would have you believe that the Amendment was always intended to be placed with the bill, but it curious that such an amendment was not discussed at any point, in committee or not, until late Wednesday night, after we had published a story on the effective date of the bill. Indeed, if the Amendment was always intended to be passed with the bill, then it is curious why the bill was not moved to a vote yesterday. And it was curious why the Amendment was not introduced and placed with the bill at any point between June 30 and Wednesday.
The truth of the matter is that Dave McBride and Nicole Poore were strongly pushing the bill to be passed as is without amendment on Wednesday, because they thought they had a small window where they could get the bill passed without Amendment that would end up protecting incumbents in both the Senate and House from primary challenges this year. That window closed on late Wednesday night when they were forced to introduce the 2024 Amendment.
Senator Stephanie Hansen had serious and legitimate concerns with the bill with respect to how it would affect legislative business during the session. She was already very persuasive in the caucus, before the Amendment was introduced, in convincing some Senators to oppose the primary date change with or without the Amendment. And now, that opposition makes it unlikely the bill will be acted on this session in the Senate. Especially considering that, with the 2024 Amendment now placed with the bill, McBride and Poore have lost interest in pushing through the bill at all. And that is the reason why the bill was not acted on yesterday and is not on the agenda for next week in the Senate.
But the Senate did pass a voting reform measure that will make Voting By Mail much easier to pass and enact in the future. House Bill 73 amends the Delaware Constitution to eliminate the restrictions the Constitution places on absentee voting. The Constitution says that to vote absentee, the voter must either be overseas or away from the state in the Armed Services, ill, disabled, on vacation, on business, or because their religion somehow forbids voting on that particular day. The Constitutional Amendment eliminates all those restrictions and replaces it with language that simply says the General Assembly shall enact general laws providing the circumstances, rules, and procedures for absentee voting.
The House passed this bill overwhelmingly and with bipartisan support, by a vote of 38-3. In the Senate, the bill was run late in the night on June 30, and it failed 11-8-1-1, with Senator Bryan Townsend voting no so he could bring the bill back in the new year. The bill, being a constitutional amendment, needed a 2/3rds majority vote, so it needed 14 yes votes. Apparently Ernie Lopez and Bruce Ennis needed some convincing (Lopez voted no and Ennis took a walk and was absent).
Both voted yes yesterday, along with Townsend, and now the bill has passed with the required total of 14 yes votes to 5 no votes and 1 absent (Bonini).
The bill will have to be passed again in the House and Senate in 2021 in the next session of the General Assembly in order for the Constitutional Amendment to take effect.
WHERE IS THE BILL? Passed House and Senate, will be reintroduced in the next session of the General Assembly to be passed again by both chambers.
DEMOCRATIC SPONSORS – Jaques, Hansen, Poore, Brown, Sokola, Townsend, Baumbach, Bentz, Brady, Chukwuocha, Dorsey Walker, Heffernan, Osienski, Viola
REPUBLICAN SPONSORS –
YES VOTES – HOUSE – Baumbach Bennett Bentz Bolden Brady Briggs-King Bush Carson Chukwuocha Cooke D.Short Dorsey-Walker Dukes Gray Griffith Heffernan Hensley Jaques K.Johnson K.Williams Kowalko Longhurst Lynn Matthews M.Smith Minor-Brown Mitchell Morris Osienski Postles Q.Johnson Ramone Schwartzkopf Seigfried Shupe Smyk Vanderwende Viola /// SENATE – Brown Cloutier Ennis Hansen Lockman Lopez McBride McDowell Paradee Poore Sokola Sturgeon Townsend Walsh
NO VOTES – HOUSE – Collins Spiegelman Yearick /// SENATE – Hocker Lawson Pettyjohn Richardson Wilson
ABSENT – Bonini
NOT VOTING – Delcollo