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Stories about Delaware

Pillsbury wins Dover City Council special election

The city of Dover, D.E., held a nonpartisan special election for District 1 on the city council on Nov. 16. The filing deadline for this election was Nov. 1.

Julia Pillsbury defeated Brandy Walker in the special election with 53.5% of the vote. According to unofficial results, Pillsbury received 272 votes to Walker’s 236. The special election was called after Matthew Lindell resigned from his seat on the nine-seat city council after deciding to move from the district. Lindell served from 2017 to 2021.

Dover is the capital city of Delaware and the second-largest city in the state. It had an estimated population of 39,403 in 2020, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Ballotpedia covers elections for mayor, city council, and district attorney in all capital cities in the U.S.

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A closer look at Delaware’s new state legislative maps

On Nov. 2, 2021, Gov. John Carney (D) signed Senate Bill 199 (SB 199) into law, enacting new maps for Delaware’s 21 state Senate and 41 state House districts. These maps will take effect for the state’s 2022 legislative elections.

Eighteen states have finalized their state legislative redistricting maps following the 2020 census. At this point in the 2010 redistricting cycle, 29 states had completed their legislative maps.

The Delaware General Assembly approved the final House and Senate map proposals on Nov. 1 before sending them to Carney. 

The state Senate approved the maps along party lines with all 14 Democrats in favor and all seven Republicans against. Senate President Pro Tempore Dave Sokola (D) said, “The map does retain the cores of all 21 current Senate districts … It does retain five majority-minority Senate districts. It retains one majority-Black Senate district.” 

Republican senators opposing the bill said the Senate map did not account for population growth in Sussex County, the state’s fastest-growing. Senate Minority Leader Gerald Hocker (R) said, “Our constituents in Sussex County are way underrepresented … It’s not fair to the senators in those districts and it’s not fair to the staffing we have to represent those districts.”

SB 199 faced no debate in the House of Representatives, where members voted 40-1 in favor with state Rep. Michael Smith (R) voting against.

Democrats currently control both chambers of the Delaware General Assembly with a 14-7 majority in the Senate and a 26-15 majority in the House.

Since Delaware was apportioned a single at-large U.S. House seat, it will not conduct congressional redistricting during the 2020 cycle.

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Voters in Dover to decide city council special election on Nov. 16

The city of Dover, D.E., is holding a nonpartisan special election for District 1 on the city council on Nov. 16. The filing deadline for this election was Nov. 1.

Julia Pillsbury and Brandy Walker are running in the special election. The special election was called after Matthew Lindell resigned from his seat on the nine-seat city council after deciding to move from the district. Lindell served from 2017 to 2021.

Dover is the capital city of Delaware and the second-largest city in the state. It had an estimated population of 39,403 in 2020, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Ballotpedia covers elections for mayor, city council, and district attorney in all capital cities in the U.S.

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Filing deadline approaches for special city council election in Dover, Del.

Candidates interested in running in the special election for the District 1 seat of the Dover City Council in Delaware have until Nov. 1 to file. The general election is scheduled for Nov. 16. No primary election was scheduled.

The special election was called after Matthew Lindell resigned from his seat on the nine-seat city council after deciding to move from the district. Lindell served from 2017 to 2021.

Dover is the capital city of Delaware. Ballotpedia covers elections for mayor, city council, and district attorney in all capital cities in the U.S.

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Delaware, Maine, New Jersey end face-covering requirements

Three states ended statewide public mask requirements for vaccinated and unvaccinated people between May 21 and May 28.

Maine Gov. Janet Mills (D) ended the statewide indoor mask requirement May 24. Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew said businesses could require people to show proof of vaccination, but “the state of Maine is not going to enforce this idea of different policies for vaccinated and unvaccinated people, nor do we expect businesses to do so.” The state recommended unvaccinated people continue masking in indoor public spaces. Vaccinated and unvaccinated people still had to wear masks in schools and childcare centers, on public transportation, and in health care settings.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) lifted the state’s indoor mask requirement for vaccinated and unvaccinated people on May 28. Masks will still be required in state offices open to the public, schools and childcare centers, on public transportation, and in health care settings. The six-foot social distancing requirement ended on the same day. Dance floors and standing service at bars and restaurants will also be permitted.

Delaware Gov. Jay Carney (D) signed an order on May 18 ending the statewide mask requirement, effective May 21. Carney said masks were still required in state offices open to the public, schools and childcare centers, on public transportation, and in health care settings. The order also strongly encouraged unvaccinated individuals to continue wearing masks in indoor businesses and public settings in compliance with CDC guidelines at the time.

Additionally, Hawaii lifted its outdoor mask requirements and New York lifted mask requirements for children ages two through five. Washington amended its existing mask orders to align with the CDC guidance issued May 13, exempting fully vaccinated individuals from most indoor mask requirements. 

Thirty-nine states issued statewide public mask requirements during the pandemic. Seventeen states had statewide mask orders as of May 28, including 13 of the 23 states with Democratic governors and four out of the 27 states with Republican governors. 

Of the 22 states that have fully ended statewide public mask requirements, 12 have Republican governors, and ten have Democratic governors. Nineteen states ended mask requirements through executive order, two (Kansas and Utah) ended mask requirements through legislative action, and one (Wisconsin) ended its mandate through court order.



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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