Voting by mail or in person? Middletown residents share plans for the general election

Amanda Parrish
Middletown Transcript

More than 150,000 Delawareans have requested absentee and vote-by-mail ballots for this year's general election, as people want to avoid long lines at polling locations due to the pandemic.

But will Middletown-area residents vote by mail or in person?

As of Sunday, 9,886 people in the Middletown-Odessa-Townsend region — nearly 20% of registered voters in the area — have requested absentee or vote-by-mail ballots, according to data provided by the Department of Elections.

Gov. John Carney signed House Bill 346 in July, which made voting by mail an alternative to in-person voting due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Absentee ballots require a reason, such as being sick, disabled or on vacation. No reason is needed to vote by mail. Although there is a difference between the two, the procedures are the same, according to the Department of Election website. The voter requests a ballot through an application, receives the ballot, fills out the ballot and returns it to the Department of Elections.

People head into vote at the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church on Nov. 6, 2018 in Wilmington.

Not all residents think voting by mail should be open to everyone. Lee Bunner Malgiero — who plans to vote in person — said unless someone has had to quarantine because of their health, people should vote in person.

“If you can go to the store and wait in line, you can vote showing your ID,” she said.

Andrew Kulp of Middletown said he and his wife are voting by mail.

“To us the risk and just general logistics of waiting in line to vote with a 3 year old in tow doesn't make sense,” he said.

Multiple people who shared their plans for voting with the Middletown Transcript shared some of the same struggles with fitting in-person voting into their schedule with their children at home.

Jennie Tiffany Mills said she is voting by mail for the safety of herself and her kids.

“I have three kids doing online learning and I work from home while my husband is in the service. I can't wait seven hours [at a polling location] with three kids, one with cerebral palsy and epilepsy,” the Middletown voter said.

Sharron Bennett isn’t against voting by mail, but she is choosing to go in person. She is nervous about a mail-in ballot getting lost.

“I am blessed to have a job that gives me a paid day off to vote, so I will be standing in line all day if that’s what it takes,” she said.

According to the Department of Elections, about 50,000 residents within state representative districts 8, 9 and 11 — which comprises the Middletown, Odessa and Townsend areas — are registered to vote. District 11 also includes parts of Smyrna and northern Kent County.

The deadline to register to vote for the Nov. 3 general election was Oct. 10.

VOTE BY MAIL:Should votes mailed on Election Day be counted? Delaware court to decide

Registered voters have until Oct. 30 to request a ballot and must be received by the voter’s respective county board of elections by 8 p.m. on Nov. 3.

But The League of Women Voters filed a lawsuit last month to try and extend that deadline, citing significant delays of the postal service. The organization asked a Chancery Court judge to order state officials to count ballots that have been postmarked by Nov. 3 and arrive up to 10 days after Election Day.

Delaware attorneys argued during a hearing earlier this month that only the General Assembly can alter the deadline.

In a separate case, a lawyer for the GOP requested the court to order the state not to count ballots mailed within the new vote-by-mail system, but Delaware judge, Vice Chancellor Sam Glasscock III, rejected the request.

New Castle County ballot drop-off locations

Voters can mail or drop their ballot off at the county election office. Secure ballot drop boxes are available in the county office or in the lobby of the Carvel State Office Building. Ballots cannot be dropped off at polling places. Drop boxes will be open until 8 p.m. on Election Day.

  • Carvel State Office Building: 820 N. French St., Suite 400, Wilmington; Monday to Friday 8 a.m. 4 p.m. The lobby is open from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • New Castle County Office Warehouse & Training Center: 220 Lisa Dr., New Castle; Monday to Friday 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The box is located at the south end of the building.

Karl Baker, Delaware News Journal reporter, contributed to this story