Bills to drop voting age, expand absentee voting in Delaware constitution heard in Dover

Claire Snyder-Hall, executive director of Common Cause Delaware, talks with 47 ABC about a bill that would change an outdated statute related to voting age, but leave in language that requires literacy tests, land ownership, and a minimum residency for voting.

This article and segment were originally published by 47 ABC on April 26, 2023 and were written by Rob Flaks. 

Common Cause Delaware is speaking out against a bill to change language in the state’s constitution when it comes to the voting age.

The bill would change the outdated statute that bars 21-year-olds to vote and changes the age to 18.

The move is symbolic as federal law has made the statute irrelevant for 50 years.

However, the group is opposing the bill because of what it doesn’t change- including language that requires literacy tests, land ownership, and a minimum residency for voting.

The group says that language has a dark history that would be tacitly endorsed if the bill were to move forward and leave it unaltered.

“It is odd that this bill would attempt to change something out of date and inactive for 50 years but leave intact very troubling Jim-Crow era features of our constitution that need to be changed,” said Common Cause Delaware Director Clair Snyder-Hall.

Common Cause Delaware Director Claire Snyder-Hall tells us that it’s too late to have an amendment to add the language moving forward without restarting the entire bill, and is pushing for lawmakers in the house to vote down the bill, and start again next session with a bill that tackles both the voting age requirements and the Jim-Crow era language.

Wednesday’s session also dealt with a bill to amend the Delaware constitution to give the legislature the right to expand absentee voting in the future.

In 2022, the Delaware Supreme Court struck down no excuse for absentee voting, which allows people to use the absentee mail-in ballot system without having to prove they need it due to an exacerbating circumstance, citing a need for a constitutional amendment.

This bill seeks to remedy that by passing a constitutional amendment to give the legislature the authority to expand it in a later bill.

Common Cause Director Allison Colden says opening up absentee voting has been proven to boost turnout in elections of all levels.

“A lot of people prefer voting from home for whatever reason or they want to have that option on election day if they come down sick or whatever that should just be a choice of a number of ways that people could vote,” Snyder-Hall said.

Common Cause Delaware says Democrats will need at least two Republicans in the House to cross over to pass the measure.