Tagdelaware

Stories about Delaware

In four states, no state or federal officials have tested positive for COVID-19

Between the start of the coronavirus pandemic and March 18, 2021, no elected or appointed state or federal officials announced positive COVID-19 test results in four states—Delaware, Maryland, Oregon, and Vermont. In the 46 other states, Ballotpedia has identified at least one COVID-19 positive state or federal official within our coverage scope. State and federal officials include members of Congress, state legislators, and state executive officeholders.

The first COVID-19 positive state officials identified by Ballotpedia were New York state Reps. Helene Weinstein (D) and Charles Barron (D), who announced positive test results on March 14, 2020. The first members of Congress to test positive were Reps. Ben McAdams (D-Utah) and Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fl.), who made their announcements March 18.

Since then, Ballotpedia has identified 215 candidates and officials diagnosed with COVID-19 at the state level, and 69 candidates and officials with COVID-19 at the federal level.

The state with the highest number of publicly identified COVID-19 state and federal officials is Pennsylvania, where two U.S. House members, the governor, and 17 members of the state legislature have tested positive since March 2020.

To read more about federal, state, and local officials and candidates affected by COVID-19, click the link below.



Breaking down partisanship on the Delaware Supreme Court

Delaware is the only state in the country with a constitutional requirement mandating partisan balance on the state supreme court. In 1851, Delaware amended its constitution to include: “three of the five Justices of the Supreme Court in office at the same time, shall be of one major political party, and two of said Justices shall be of the other major political party.”

Ballotpedia’s recently published study on state supreme courts revealed that of the five justices on the Delaware Supreme Court, four justices had some level of affiliation with the Democratic party and one justice had an indeterminate partisan affiliation.

In “Ballotpedia Courts: State Partisanship”, we gathered a variety of data on 341 active state supreme court justices across the 50 states in order to understand their partisan affiliations. Based on this research, we placed each justice into one of five categories indicating our confidence in their affiliations with either the Democratic or Republican Parties. These categories are Strong Democratic, Mild Democratic, Indeterminate, Mild Republican, and Strong Republican.

Our confidence measure shows that there are two Strong Democrats on the Delaware Supreme Court (Justices James Vaughn and Collins Seitz), two Mild Democrats (Justices Gary Traynor and Tamika Montgomery-Reeves), and one Indeterminate justice (Justice Karen Valihura). 

Although Justice Traynor is a registered Republican, the Federal Election Commission records that he has donated to Democratic political campaigns and has no recorded donations to Republican campaigns. Justice Valihura is also a registered Republican in the state. Unlike Traynor, she has donated to Republican campaigns throughout her career.

As of 2020, Delaware remains the only state with such a requirement in its constitution. States like New Jersey and Massachusetts have informal but not constitutional rules which mandate balance on the state supreme court.

Justices in Delaware are selected using the assisted appointment method, where the Judicial Selection Commission forwards a list of candidates to the governor. The governor then appoints a candidate who must then be confirmed by the Delaware General Assembly. Justices serve renewable twelve-year terms.

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Delaware legislature amends state constitution to prohibit discrimination according to race, color, national origin

On January 28, 2021, the Delaware House of Representatives approved Senate Bill 31 in the final step to amend the state constitution to add a prohibition on discrimination according to race, color, and national origin to the Delaware Bill of Rights.

Unlike any other state, the Delaware State Legislature can amend the constitution without a vote of the people. To amend the state constitution, an amendment requires a two-thirds vote of each chamber in two consecutive sessions of the legislature. The amendment does not require the governor’s signature before becoming effective.

The amendment was first introduced as Senate Bill 191 in February 2020. The Delaware State Senate approved the amendment unanimously on June 16, 2020. The Delaware House of Representatives also approved the amendment unanimously on June 25. The amendment was introduced in the 2021 legislative session on January 12, 2021, as Senate Bill 31. It was approved unanimously again on January 21 by the state Senate and on January 28 by the state House.

The amendment adds “race, color, national origin” to section 21 of Article I of the Delaware Constitution. Section 21 was added to the Bill of Rights in 2019 by House Bill 1. With the recent amendment, the section reads: “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged on account of race, color, national origin, or sex.”

The Delaware constitution can also be amended through a constitutional convention. The state legislature can refer the question, “Shall there be a Convention to revise the Constitution and amend the same?” to statewide ballots via a two-thirds vote in each chamber. If the ballot question receives a simple majority vote, then there will be a convention.

In the other 49 other states, the legislature must refer proposed constitutional amendments to the ballot for voter approval. The states have varying requirements for constitutional amendments originating in the legislatures. Some have multiple different processes with separate sets of requirements:

  • Ten states allow a referred amendment to go on the ballot after a majority vote in one session of the state’s legislature.
  • Nine states allow a referred amendment to go on the ballot after a 60% supermajority vote in one session of the state’s legislature.
  • Seventeen states allow a referred amendment to go on the ballot after a two-thirds (66.67 percent) supermajority vote in one session of the state’s legislature.
  • Fifteen states, including Delaware, have a two-session process for proposed constitutional amendments.
  • Four of those states (Connecticut, Hawaii, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania) have an either/or system: a proposed amendment must be passed by a simple majority in two separate legislative sessions, or by a supermajority vote of one session.

A full list of the different methods state legislatures can amend their constitutions can be found here: https://ballotpedia.org/Legislatively_referred_constitutional_amendment

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Democrats gain veto-proof legislative majorities in two states, leaving them with eight to Republicans’ 16

Democrats gained veto-proof state legislative majorities in Delaware and New York in the Nov. 3 elections. This increases the number of state legislatures with a veto-proof majority in both chambers from 22 to 24: 16 held by Republicans and eight held by Democrats. 

Democrats had a veto-proof majority in both states’ lower legislative chambers heading into the election and gained veto-proof majorities in both state senates.

Veto-proof majorities are most important when the other party controls the governorship. This creates more opportunities for legislatures to override gubernatorial vetoes.

Heading into 2020, there were four states where the governor was a member of a different political party than the veto-proof majority: Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, and Maryland. All but Maryland held legislative elections in 2020. As a result of the 2020 elections, Republicans maintained veto-proof majorities in Kansas and Kentucky, and Democrats maintained their veto-proof majority in Massachusetts. No governorships in these states were up for election in 2020.

Ballotpedia identified five states with state legislative elections in 2020 that had the potential to gain a veto-proof majority of the party opposite the governor: Montana, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Vermont, and Wisconsin. Neither party gained a veto-proof majority in any of these state legislatures. 

Forty-four states held regularly-scheduled state legislative elections on Nov 3. At the time of the election, there were 22 state legislatures where one party had a veto-proof majority in both chambers; 16 held by Republicans and six held by Democrats. Twenty of those states held legislative elections in 2020.

Although it has the potential to create conflict, the veto override power is rarely used. According to political scientists Peverill Squire and Gary Moncrief in 2010, only about five percent of vetoes are overridden. 

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SCOTUS issues ruling in case concerning Delaware’s method of judicial selection

On December 11, 2020, the Supreme Court of the United States issued a unanimous ruling in the case Carney v. Adams. The case originated from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit and concerned judicial selection in Delaware. The case was argued during the court’s October Term for 2020-2021 on October 5, 2020.

The case: As of December 2019, when Delaware Governor John Carney Jr. (D) filed a petition before the U.S. Supreme Court, Article IV, Section 3 of the Delaware Constitution required that no more than the bare majority of judges on a given Delaware court could be of the same political party. 

James Adams, a retired lawyer, sued Gov. Carney in federal district court. Adams argued Article IV, Section 3 violated the First Amendment. In response, Carney argued that Adams did not have the legal right, or standing, to file a lawsuit. A federal magistrate judge ruled the state constitution’s provision was unconstitutional. On appeal, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part the federal district court’s ruling. 

Gov. Carney, acting in his official capacity, filed a petition with the U.S. Supreme Court, arguing the 3rd Circuit’s decision conflicted with decisions in similar cases from the 2nd Circuit, 6th Circuit, and the 7th Circuit.

The issues: 

(1) Does the First Amendment invalidate the Delaware Constitution’s “bare majority” requirement? 

(2) Was the 3rd Circuit wrong to hold that part of the Delaware Constitution’s “bare majority” requirement is not severable from the rest of the requirement? 

(3) Does the respondent have standing?

The outcome: The court vacated the 3rd Circuit’s decision in an 8-0 ruling, holding that James Adams, the respondent, did not have standing to sue the governor of Delaware. Justice Stephen Breyer wrote the opinion and Justice Sonia Sotomayor filed a concurring opinion. Justice Amy Coney Barrett did not take part in the case’s consideration or decision.

As of December 14, 2020, the court had issued opinions in nine cases this term. Four cases were decided without argument.

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Delaware primary review: less than 25% of offices up in November appeared on primary ballot

Delaware held its statewide primary on September 15, 2020. Candidates competed to advance to the general election scheduled for November 3. In Delaware, unopposed primary candidates automatically advance to the general election. Consequently, only 13 state-level offices were on the primary ballot even though 55 seats are up for election in 2020. There were 15 state-level primaries held.

Candidates ran in elections for the following offices:

• Governor: Incumbent Gov. John C. Carney Jr. defeated challenger David Lamar Williams Jr. in the Democratic primary. Julianne Murray advanced from the Republican primary, defeating five other candidates. They face Kathy DeMatteis (Independent Party) and John Machurek (Libertarian) in the general election.

• Lieutenant governor: Both the Democratic and Republican primaries were canceled. Incumbent Lt. Gov. Bethany Hall-Long (D) and challenger Donyale Hall (R) automatically advanced to the general election.

• Insurance Commissioner: Incumbent Trinidad Navarro defeated challenger Kayode Abegunde in the Democratic primary. Navarro faces Julia Pillsbury (R), who had no primary opposition and automatically advanced to the general election.

• Delaware State Senate (11 seats): Five primaries were opposed and on the ballot—four Democratic primaries and one Republican primary. Two contested primaries featured incumbents, both Democrats. District 14 incumbent Bruce Ennis defeated two challengers to advance to the general election. District 13 incumbent David McBride lost to challenger Marie Pinkney. The remaining three primaries did not feature incumbents and were in Districts 1, 5, and 14. The District 14 primary was the only Republican state legislative primary on the ballot in Delaware. District 1 is the only open state Senate seat in the 2020 election cycle.

• Delaware House of Representatives (41 seats): Seven primaries were opposed and on the ballot—all Democratic primaries. Five contested primaries featured incumbents, all Democrats. Incumbents in Districts 4 and 10 advanced to the general election. Incumbents in Districts 7 and 27 were defeated. The District 26 race was still too close to call as of September 17, 2020. The remaining two primaries did not feature incumbents and were in Districts 8 and 34. District 8 is the only open state House seat in the 2020 election cycle.

Delaware’s primary was the 49th to take place in the 2020 election cycle. The next and last primary is on November 3 in Louisiana.



Delaware holds congressional primaries

Delaware held its statewide primary election on September 15. Races for two congressional seats were on the ballot—one for a U.S. Senate seat and one for Delaware’s at-large U.S. House seat. Both incumbents filed for re-election and won their respective primaries, advancing to the general election on November 3.

In the race for Delaware’s Class II Senate seat, incumbent Chris Coons (D) advanced from the Democratic primary over challenger Jessica Scarane with 73% of the vote, according to unofficial results. Republican Lauren Witzke won the Republican primary, beating James DeMartino with 57% of the vote.

Incumbent Lisa Blunt Rochester was unopposed in the Democratic primary for Delaware’s at-large U.S. House seat. The primary was canceled and Rochester advanced automatically to the general election. In the Republican primary, Lee Murphy secured 74% of the vote to advance to the general over Matthew Morris.

Delaware’s primary was the 49th to take place in the 2020 election cycle. The next and last congressional primary is on November 3 in Louisiana.

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Voters to decide Delaware’s congressional primaries

The statewide primary for Delaware is on September 15, 2020. The filing deadline to run passed on July 14, 2020. Candidates are running in congressional elections for one seat in the U.S. House and one seat in the U.S. Senate.

Primary winners will advance to the general election scheduled for November 3, 2020. Delaware’s primary is the final statewide primary to take place in the 2020 election cycle.

The U.S. Senate has 45 Democrats, 53 Republicans, and two independents who caucus with the Democratic Party. Only 35 out of 100 Senate seats are up for election. A majority in the chamber requires 51 seats. Meanwhile, the U.S. House has 232 Democrats, 198 Republicans, one Libertarian, and four vacancies. All 435 seats are up for election. A majority in the chamber requires 218 seats.

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Voters to decide state executive, legislative primaries in Delaware

The statewide primary election for Delaware is on September 15. This is the last statewide primary before the November general election.

A total of 55 seats are up for election, including three state executive seats and 52 state legislative seats. Candidates are running in elections for the following offices:
Governor
Lieutenant Governor
Insurance Commissioner
State Senate (11 out of 21 seats)

State House (all 41 seats)

Delaware has a Democratic state government trifecta. A trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and majorities in both state legislative chambers.

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Filing deadline passes for state executive and legislative candidates in Delaware

On July 14, 2020, the candidate filing period ended to run for state executive and legislative offices in Delaware. Candidates filed for the following state executive offices:
• Governor
• Lieutenant Governor

• Insurance Commissioner

All three incumbents—Governor John Carney (D), Lieutenant Governor Bethany Hall-Long (D), and Insurance Commissioner Trinidad Navarro (D)—filed for re-election.

Candidates also filed for the following state legislative offices:
• Delaware State Senate (11 of 21 seats)

• Delaware House of Representatives (all 41 seats)

The primary is scheduled for September 15, 2020, and the general election will be held on November 3, 2020.

The next and final statewide filing deadline in the 2020 election cycle is on July 24 in Louisiana.

Delaware has a Democratic state government trifecta. A trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and majorities in both state legislative chambers.

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