Absentee ballots are a system of voting through ballots that are mailed or sent electronically prior to Election Day.[1]  Absentee voting can make it easier for some people with disabilities to vote.  For example in Delaware, [2] some of the reasons you can vote by absentee ballot include the following (note: not every reason is listed here):

  • You are sick or temporarily or permanently physically disabled;
  • You are providing care to your parent/spouse/child who is living at home and who requires constant care; or
  • Due to the nature of your business or occupation. Good to know: this includes students!  If you are not able to go vote in person because of being away for college, you can vote by absentee ballot.

Sometimes the rules and practices around absentee voting can be a barrier for people with disabilities.  For example, a requirement that you get your absentee ballot or application notarized would be an extra burden for people with disabilities.  Because of this concern, under the Voting Accessibility for the Elderly and Handicapped Act of 1984 (“VAEHA”), it is illegal for there to be a notarization or medical certification requirement for a voter with a disability to vote by absentee ballot.[3]

In Delaware absentee ballot applications (also called absentee ballot affidavits) must be notarized in certain situations, but having a disability or illness is NOT one of those reasons, which is what the VAEHA requires.  Similarly, if your business or occupation is providing care to your parent, spouse or child who is living at home and requires constant care, you do not have to have your affidavit notarized.  In both of these situations you can swear or affirm it yourself, without a notary.

It is important to know that if you do not indicate the election or elections that you are requesting an absentee ballot for, on your application, it is assumed that you are asking only for the next scheduled election you are eligible to vote in.  However, if you are requesting an absentee ballot for certain reasons, such as because of illness or disability, then the Department of Elections assumes that you want to vote absentee for all of the elections in the entire calendar year (unless you say otherwise on the affidavit).

You should also know that Delaware does allow permanent absentee ballots; unlike in some other places there is no requirement for a medical certification for a permanent absentee ballot in Delaware.  There is a box you can check on the affidavit if you would like to permanently vote by absentee ballot, meaning the Department of Elections automatically sends you an absentee ballot for every election you are eligible to vote in.

You can complete an affidavit to apply for an absentee ballot, or check the status of your affidavit, and check whether your absentee ballot was received and counted here: https://ivote.de.gov/.
You can download a paper copy, or access an electronic form, of the absentee ballot affidavit at: http://elections.delaware.gov/voter/absenteeballot.shtml

For more information:

[1] 15 Del. C. § 5503.

[2] The Delaware absentee ballot laws can be found at 15 Del. C. § 5501 et seq.

[3] 42 U.S.C. § 1973ee.  However, there are two exceptions to this:

  • States can require a medical certification to establish eligibility for a PERMANENT absentee ballot; or
  • States can require such a certification to apply for an absentee ballot after the deadline has passed.
Current as of September 2014