Student Voting Guide | Delaware

August 15, 2014

This student voting guide explains the laws for the state of Delaware. If you wish to vote from your school address, check the student voting guide for the state where you attend school. If you want to cast an absentee ballot in your home state, check the student voting guide for that state.

The Brennan Center is committed to giving students as much information as possible to help you exercise your constitutional right to vote. More than ever in recent history, changes to voting laws are being implemented in ways that can affect your ability to make your vote count. In addition to the content you will find in this Student Voting Guide, we continue to track passed and pending voting law changes here. While we are working to give you up-to-date information, we urge you to be proactive! In order to ensure you have all the information you need before casting your vote, you should also check with your state and local election officials for information about additional requirements or regulations.

This voting guide was last updated August 15, 2014.

Registration

Generally, you can register to vote if you are, or will be, 18 or older by the next general election.[1] However, if you register to vote at a Delaware DMV, you can register once you turn 16, and will be eligible to vote in any election after you turn 18.[2] You may also vote in the primary even if you have not turned 18 yet, so long as you are registered and will be 18 by the time of the next general election.[3] If you have been convicted of a felony, it may impact your ability to vote. If you think you might be affected, you should contact the Delaware elections office.

In Delaware, you must register to vote by the fourth Saturday before Election Day.[4] In 2014, the last day to register for the general election is Saturday, October 11, 2014. Mailed applications must also be postmarked by this date.[5] While the registration application is available online, you will need to complete and print out the form, and then mail it by this deadline.

You can also register in person at your county’s Department of Elections office, where you will need to bring the same kind of proof of your address and identification as for a mail-in registration application.[6]

Residency

At School. You can establish voting residency in Delaware if you live at your current Delaware school address with the intent of making it your home. You lose your residency if you “actually move[] outside [Delaware] with the intention of remaining [in the other state] for an indefinite time as a place of present domicile.”[7] Any other interpretation of the residency laws is unconstitutional.[8]

At Home. Delaware allows you to keep your voting residency even if you move away to attend school, so long as your Delaware address is still the place you consider home.[9]  The only way you might lose this residency is by establishing residency in a new state. While registering to vote in another state is not automatically considered abandonment of residency in Delaware, some judges or officials might view it as such. If you have established voter residency in another state and are moving back to Delaware with the intent to reside there, you will have to follow the normal registration procedures to re-register at home.

Challenges to Residency. Students have the right to establish residency in Delaware regardless of their student or tuition status. If county election officials determine that you are not eligible to register to vote, you are entitled to an immediate written notice that sets out the reasons for rejecting your voter registration form.[10] You can appeal those determinations in court up until and including Election Day.[11]

If your eligibility is challenged on Election Day by an official poll worker or a partisan challenger,[12] the inspector and two judges of the election will decide by majority vote if you are an eligible resident voter.[13] If they decide that you are eligible, you will be allowed to vote a regular ballot; if not, you will have to vote a provisional ballot (which only includes any federal races on the ballot) and will have to show proof of your identity and address in order for that provisional ballot to count.[14]

If you vote a provisional ballot, the Department of Elections shall determine the day after the election whether your provisional ballot will be counted and will publish a free access system that you can access to determine whether your ballot was counted, and if not, why.[15]

Identification at the Polls

Any first-time voter who registered by mail and whose identifying numbers (Delaware driver’s license or non-driver ID number or Social Security number) have not been verified by the state must provide ID, either by submitting a copy of identification with your registration form or your absentee ballot, or by showing ID at the polls.[16] Acceptable ID includes: valid photo ID (including a student ID), or a copy of a current utility bill, bank statement, government check, paycheck or other government document that has your name and address.[17]

Every voter in Delaware is asked for proof of identity at the polls on Election Day, but if you are not a first time voter you can sign an affidavit to fulfill this requirement.[18]

Absentee Voting

If you registered to vote in Delaware but your business or occupation (this includes school), your religion, an illness or disability, public service, or vacation prevent you from going to the polls on Election Day, you may cast an absentee ballot.[19] This includes students who are away from their voting precinct because they are attending school elsewhere in the state.[20]

To receive an absentee ballot, you must complete and submit the absentee ballot application available on the website of the Board of Elections – you will need to select the right application for your county; you can also obtain an application by phone or by going to your county Department of Elections. Unless you are getting an absentee ballot because you are sick or disabled, in public service, or out of the country, your mail-in application has to be notarized.[21]  Applications for absentee ballots are due at your county’s Department of Elections office by noon the day before the election,[22] but if you are voting by mail, you should get your application in earlier so you will have time to receive your ballot by mail, complete it, and mail it back.[23]

Completed absentee ballots must be received by the Department of Elections by the close of the polls on Election Day.[24] If you are a first-time Delaware voter who registered by mail and did not include a copy of your ID with your registration, you will have to include a copy with your absentee ballot (see Identification section above) for your ballot to be counted.[25]

Last Updated August 15, 2014


[1] 15 Del. Code Ann. § 1701.

[2] 15 Del. Code Ann. § 1701.

[3] 15 Del. Code Ann. § 1701.

[4] 15 Del. Code Ann. § 2036.

[5] 15 Del. Code Ann. § 2036(1).

[6] 15 Del. Code Ann. § 2011(b).

[7] 15 Del. Code Ann. § 4941; see also Wife (J. F. V.), v. Husband (O. W. V., Jr.), 402 A.2d 1202, 1204 (Del. 1979); Dunn v. Blumstein, 405 U.S. 330, 330 (1972); Williams v. Salerno, 792 F.2d 323, 328 (2d Cir. 1986).

[8] 15 Del. Code Ann. § 4941; see also Wife (J. F. V.), v. Husband (O. W. V., Jr.), 402 A.2d 1202, 1204 (Del. 1979); Dunn v. Blumstein, 405 U.S. 330, 330 (1972); Williams v. Salerno, 792 F.2d 323, 328 (2d Cir. 1986). See Dunn v. Blumstein, 405 U.S. 330, 330 (1972); Williams v. Salerno, 792 F.2d 323, 328 (2d Cir. 1986).

[9] See note 11 and 12, supra.

[10] 15 Del. Code Ann. § 2014(b).

[11] 15 Del. Code Ann. §§ 2101; 2114.

[12] 15 Del. Code Ann. § 4936.

[13] 15 Del. Code Ann. § 4937(c).

[14] 15 Del. Code Ann. §§ 4936 (right to vote with a provisional ballot if challenge successful); 4948(b), (c), and (h)(6) (procedures for provisional ballots).

[15] 15 Del. Code Ann. § 4948(i).

[16] 15 Del. Code Ann. § 2033(a).

[17] 15 Del. Code Ann. § 2033(a).

[18] 15 Del. Code Ann. § 4937(a).

[19] 15 Del. Code Ann. § 5502(3).

[20] See Department of Elections for New Castle County, “Information for College Students,” at http://electionsncc.delaware.gov/college.shtml

[21] 15 Del. Code Ann. § 5503(e).

[22] 15 Del. Code Ann. § 5503(a).

See Department of Elections for New Castle County, “Information for College Students,” at http://electionsncc.delaware.gov/college.shtml.

[24] 15 Del. Code Ann. § 5508(b).              

[25] 15 Del. Code Ann. § 2033(c).