Delaware Supreme Court Issues Critical Ruling on Mail-in Voting

AP Photo/Lynne Sladky

On Friday, the Delaware Supreme Court issued a critical ruling regarding mail-in voting just ahead of November’s midterm elections.


In an abbreviated Order, the Court held that the vote-by-mail statute, passed by the state’s legislature in June, violated the state’s constitution, thereby affirming the September 15th ruling from a Chancery Court judge, who also found the new law unconstitutional.


The Delaware Supreme Court wasted no time banning no-excuse mail-in voting, which lawmakers had approved in June for use in this year’s elections.

“The vote-by-mail statute impermissibly expands the categories of absentee voters identified’’ in the constitution, the justices ruled in a unanimous vote.

The court will issue a full opinion later, but said it “enters this abbreviated order in recognition of the impending election scheduled for November 8, 2022, and the Department of Election’s desire to mail ballots to voters by or around October 10, 2022.”

As noted, this ruling had no impact on mail-in ballots from the September primary, but will apply to the general election in November.

The Court’s ruling also struck down a new law allowing for same-day registration. Thus, October 15th is the deadline to register to vote in Delaware for November’s general election.


The September ruling from Vice Chancellor Nathan Cook noted that:

[S]tate courts have consistently stated that absentee balloting is only permissible as spelled out in the state constitution when a voter can’t get to their polling location for these reasons:

  • Public service to the state or nation
  • Business or occupation for themselves, or when accompanying a spouse or dependent to work.
  • Illness or injury

Julianne Murray, the GOP candidate for State Attorney General, was one of the Plaintiffs in the litigation and was obviously pleased with the outcome. Following the Court’s ruling, Murray stated:

“I’m delighted. I was delighted when the Chancery Court came to their decision. This is, I think proper. It has always been about the amendment process. I know that there are people that have said that this is about stopping people from voting, and I just don’t subscribe to that and have said all along, no. This is about amending the Delaware Constitution.”

One of the bill’s sponsors saw it differently:

State Senator Kyle Evans Gay (D-Talleyville), the prime sponsor of the vote-by-mail bill, says while ruling is a setback, the momentum behind expanding voting access remains. Gay hopes the General Assembly will amend the state constitution to allow mail-in-voting – something she says will require voters to turn out this November.

“I hope voters understand that there has been one party fighting for increased access and removing unnecessary barriers to the ballot,” said Gay.


It remains to be seen whether Delaware’s legislature will amend the constitution as suggested by Evans Gay. But for November’s election, no-excuse mail-in ballots will not fly.



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