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Delaware Senate Democrats

Senate passes two bills to preserve sanctity of Delaware’s democratic institutions

April 6, 2023

DOVER – The Delaware State Senate passed two good government bills Thursday to preserve the sanctity of democratic institutions in the First State and preserve the public’s faith in those bodies.

Sponsored by Sen. Kyle Evans Gay and Rep. Paul Baumbach, both bills set new rules for Delaware’s Electoral College delegates and members of the Delaware General Assembly.

Introduced in March by Sen. Gay, Senate Bill 57 will help ensure that the will of Delaware voters is faithfully honored when the Electoral College convenes every four years to decide the outcome of presidential elections.

“In recent years, we have come dangerously close to seeing our democratic institutions circumvented,” said Sen. Gay, D-Talleyville. “This legislation will help protect the sanctity of the popular vote in Delaware by requiring that our representatives to the Electoral College faithfully fulfill their obligation to the will of the voters.”

SB 57 would specifically adopt the Uniform Faithful Presidential Electors Act – model legislation passed in at least eight other states to prevent rogue electors from usurping the popular vote.

Under the bill, electors would be required to sign a pledge to mark their ballots in accordance with the popular vote. Any attempt by an elector to submit a vote in violation of that pledge would effectively constitute a resignation, and begin a process to replace that elector.

SB 57 now heads to the Delaware House for consideration.

“Voting matters, and SB 57 will ensure that when Delaware voters choose a Presidential candidate in a general election by popular vote, Delaware’s electors are required to cast Delaware’s three electoral votes for that very candidate. SB 57 eliminates hijacking of the electoral process,” said Rep. Baumbach, D-Newark, the House prime sponsor of SB 57. “I am so appreciative of Sen Gay’s leadership on this critical legislation, and I look forward to shepherding it through the House.”

The Senate on Thursday also passed House Bill 77, the second leg of a Constitutional amendment that requires state legislators to continuously reside in the districts they are elected to represent.

“We expect that when we elect an official to represent us, they live in the district they serve,” said Rep. Baumbach, the prime sponsor of HB 77. “We discovered that this is not required in Delaware, and so over multiple years we are completing the steps to correct this oversight. HB77 ensures that your elected members of the legislature live in the district they serve. In Delaware, a state of neighbors, we want to ensure that we are represented by a neighbor.”

The Delaware Constitution currently requires General Assembly candidates to reside in the representative or senatorial districts they wish to represent for a full year before Election Day. However, there is no requirement that a legislator maintain a full-time residence in that district once elected, only that they meet the yearlong residency requirement before the following election if they are running for another term. 

Also introduced in March, HB77 would require legislators to continuously reside in their districts for the entirety of their terms. If they move out of their district before their term ends, the lawmaker would be “deemed to have resigned the office.” 

The measure does include a once-a-decade exception for sitting legislators who change their residence to live within the boundaries of newly drawn districts through the redistricting process.

“State legislators should reside in the districts they represent,” said Sen. Gay, the Senate prime sponsor of HB 77. “I want to thank Rep. Baumbach for working diligently over two years to make sure that is reflected in the law with clear penalties for those who seek to play games with the residency requirement.”

Constitutional amendments require a 2/3 majority in each chamber and pass in identical form in consecutive General Assemblies. House Bill 395, the first leg of this Constitutional amendment, was passed by the House and Senate in June 2022.

With the Senate’s vote on Thursday, the amendment will now be incorporated into the Delaware Constitution. No signature from the governor is required.