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Judge says Delaware vote-by-mail law is unconstitutional

DOVER, Del. (AP) A Delaware judge ruled Wednesday a new vote-by-mail law enacted earlier this season is unconstitutional and that voting by mail can’t be found in upcoming November election.

Vice Chancellor Nathan Cook ruled that regulations, the consequence of legislation that Democrats rammed through the overall Assembly in under three weeks earlier this June, violates a provision in Delawares constitution that spells out the circumstances under which one is permitted to cast an absentee ballot.

Our Supreme Court which court have consistently stated that those circumstances are exhaustive, Cook wrote. Therefore, as an effort judge, I’m compelled by precedent to summarize that the vote-by-mail statutes try to expand absentee voting … should be rejected.

While declaring vote by mail unconstitutional, Cook upheld the states new same-day voter registration law.

Julianne Murray, a lawyer for plaintiffs challenging the vote-by-mail statute, said she was glad that the judge carefully studied Delawares constitution and court precedent to make his determination.

He started on the Constitutional Convention of 1897 and worked his way through, said Murray, who’s the Republican nominee for attorney general in November.

Jane Brady, a retired judge and former Delaware attorney general who also represented plaintiffs in the lawsuit, said mail-in voting will not comport with the constitution.

I really believe that the legislature has known from day one which they needed a constitutional amendment to get this done, she added, noting that lawmakers acknowledged during debate on the legislation that it might likely face a court challenge.

In my own view, they abdicated their responsibility, said Brady, who’s also chair of hawaii Republican Party.

A spokesman for Democratic Attorney General Kathleen Jennings, whose office represented the Department of Elections in the lawsuit, referred questions to the elections agency. State Election Commissioner Anthony Albence declined to comment.

Democratic lawmakers introduce the vote-by-mail bill after failing woefully to win Republican support to amend the constitution. A constitutional amendment takes a two-thirds vote by each chamber in two consecutive General Assemblies. The initial leg of a constitutional amendment to remove limitations on absentee balloting cleared the legislature in 2020, after initially being defeated in the Democrat-controlled Senate, however the second leg didn’t win the required majority in the Democrat-led House this past year.

Republican Sen. Colin Bonini, who spoke out vehemently contrary to the vote-by-mail bill in June and introduced 25 amendments in order to change it out, said the Chancery Court did the proper thing.

I believe it had been clear that it had been unconstitutional, said Bonini, who finished last in a three-way GOP primary contest on Tuesday and can quit the Dover-area seat he’s got held for 28 years. Im disappointed that the court also didnt strike down same-day registration.

Wednesdays ruling comes 2 yrs following a different Chancery Court judge rejected challenging by hawaii Republican Party to the constitutionality of a law allowing universal voting by mail in the 2020 election. Vice Chancellor Sam Glasscock III said for the reason that ruling that the overall Assemblys decision to utilize its emergency powers to declare that voting by mail was essential to protect public health insurance and ensure continuity of governmental operations through the coronavirus epidemic had not been clearly erroneous.

In passing that bill, Democrats asserted that voting by mail was necessary and proper through the pandemic, and that conforming to certain requirements of Delawares constitution, including its explicit limitations on absentee voting, will be impracticable.

Glasscock said the constitutional provision authorizing the overall Assembly to exercise emergency powers acted as a safe harbor and can authorize general absentee voting that otherwise will be prohibited beneath the state constitution.

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