WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, the Prisoners for Legal Advocacy Network (PLAN) filed a lawsuit challenging Delaware’s failure to provide eligible incarcerated voters with a way to cast their ballots.
Citizens who are awaiting trial or have been convicted of non-disqualifying misdemeanors in Delaware are eligible to vote in state and national elections. However, the lawsuit argues that Delaware does not provide a way for these eligible voters to vote. This new lawsuit alleges that this failure to afford eligible voters an avenue to vote violates the First and 14th Amendments of the U.S. Constitution.
“Delaware now deprives Delaware’s eligible incarcerated voters—unable to vote in-person or absentee—of any way to exercise their fundamental constitutional right to vote, thus violating the First and Fourteenth Amendments,” the complaint reads.
Previously, Delaware voters awaiting trial relied on absentee ballots to vote. However, due to the Delaware Supreme Court’s decision in Higgin v. Albence that struck down its universal mail-in voting law, absentee voting is no longer an option. In addition, the plaintiffs allege that the Delaware Department of Correction is not providing voting machines for eligible incarcerated voters to cast a ballot.
Low income people and people of color are more likely to be incarcerated awaiting trial. According to the complaint, a 2011 study showed that “approximately 90% of Hispanic and Black people were held in custody at some time between arrest and disposition where only about 70% of white people were.” In addition, the complaint points out that in 2022, 38% of the incarcerated population was eligible to vote.
PLAN asks the court to declare that Delaware’s laws and policies deprive eligible voters from having access to “a constitutional means by which to cast a ballot” and ask the court to require the defendants to provide eligible incarcerated individuals with voting access.
As Democracy Docket previously explained, “eligible incarcerated voters have a constitutionally guaranteed right that simply needs to be valued in practice.” This lawsuit is a step toward effectuating that change and realizing that goal.