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Delaware Senate Democrats

Sen. Gay Sponsors Bill to Increase Voter Registration

March 11, 2021

DOVER – Sen. Kyle Evans Gay on Wednesday filed legislation to make voter registration a faster and easier process for thousands of Delawareans.

Senate Bill 5 would create an automatic voter registration system at the Delaware Division of Motor Vehicles to streamline the process of adding legal adult citizens to the voter rolls in the First State.

“Democracy works best when we make it as easy as possible for people to participate in the electoral process,” said Sen. Gay, D-Talleyville. “The first step in exercising your right to vote is getting registered as a voter. Many Delawareans do that at their local DMV and there are steps we can take to make that process even simpler. It’s time we used all the tools at our disposal to make registering to vote as quick, easy and painless as possible.”

Currently, Delawareans are asked if they would like to register or re-register as voters whenever they engage in a transaction at their local DMV. They then must provide detailed information to complete the voter registration process.

Some Delawareans opt not to register through that system because they are either in a hurry or they mistakenly believe they are not legally allowed to vote. In Delaware, for instance, most people convicted of felony are eligible to cast a ballot immediately after being released from prison, although that information was not clearly stated on state or federal voter registration forms until at least mid-2018.

SB 5 would permit all driver’s license applications to also serve as voter registration applications and allow Delaware DMV to share the information collected on those forms with the Delaware Department of Elections for that purpose, whenever an applicant shows proof of U.S. citizenship. Anyone who does not provide proof of U.S. citizenship will not be registered to vote and will not have their information forwarded to the Department of Elections. 

Each new voter registered through the automatic DMV system would receive notice in the mail confirming their new voter status and providing an opportunity to affiliate with a political party of their choosing, either online or by mail. Voters registered through the DMV’s automatic voter registration system also would have an opportunity to select political party affiliation at a polling site during the first primary election after they are registered.

“One of the fundamental responsibilities of government is to make sure our residents have easier access to exercise their right to vote,” said Rep. David Bentz, the lead House sponsor. “Delaware already does a great job registering voters, but bringing automatic voter registration to our state gives us just one more tool to increase voter participation. I look forward to passing this bill through the House once the Senate passes it.”

If passed, SB 5 would take effect two years after being signed by Governor John Carney, or five days after the Delaware Election Commissioner certifies that the systems to implement automatic voter registration are functional, whichever comes first.

SB 5 has been assigned to the Senate Elections & Government Affairs Committee.