Delmar voter asking for answers after polling place mishap
SUSSEX COUNTY, Del. – One Delmar resident is asking for answers after a major mix up at the polls Tuesday night. Ivan Taylor tells 47 ABC the experience has him hesitant to vote again.
Major Mix Up
Taylor says upon arriving at Delmar High School, the place he’s been voting his entire adult life, he had his driver’s license with his current address. He says he also had his voter registration card, printed in July 2022 and mailed this summer, in hand.
“They told me I was inactive in the system, and I wasn’t supposed to vote there. I said, ‘No, I’ve voted here my entire life.’ They said because of the redistricting, you’re going to have to go vote in Gumboro,” said Taylor. “When I got to Gumboro, they told me the exact same thing. They just said ‘You’re inactive in the system, because your mail was undeliverable, and you can’t vote. You’re supposed to vote in Delmar.'”
By that time, it was about 7:50 p.m., says Taylor; just ten minutes before polls were set to close. Taylor says poll workers called Sussex County Department of Elections Director Bo McDowell, who offered to keep the poll in Delmar open until Taylor came back.
“I had already been there once, and they weren’t sure. The lady made a comment to me that they weren’t sure if that would work either, unless they can get it fixed in the computer,” said Taylor. “I just wasn’t interested in driving all the way back. But, it was a terrible experience.”
Department of Elections Responds
McDowell tells 47 ABC the situation should not have unfolded as it did. He said in a statement that voter records are placed in inactive status when the Department of Elections has received returned mail from the voter’s recorded address. When a voter who has been labeled as inactive arrives at a polling place, elections workers are notified of their status.
The statement continued, election workers must then ask the voter to verify their address. If the voter has moved, the voter should be able to update their address on their voter registration record. The elections worker would then permit the voter to cast their ballot if they are at the correct polling place. Or, if they are not, elections workers are supposed to send the voter to the correct polling place after confirming with the county elections office.
In the statement, McDowell went on to write in part, “In this circumstance, our office did change the voter’s status back to active, and the voter was eligible to vote at that polling location. Unfortunately, the poll worker did not contact our office to confirm the voter’s polling location, and erroneously sent the voter to another polling location. I reached out to the voter to inform him of the error and to let him know that he could return to the original (correct) polling place to vote.”
The Sussex County Department of Elections is now looking into reducing class sizes for polling place inspectors, according to McDowell. He says that will hopefully facilitate providing additional training specific to their role. Until then, McDowell encourages any voters with questions or concerns relating to their registration to call the Sussex County Department of Elections at (302) 856-5367.
Asking For Change
“All people should have the opportunity to vote. But, I think it starts with the training. If the people are there to watch the machines and make sure it’s a fair election, they should be highly trained to understand how to deal with these situations,” said Taylor.
Taylor says he hopes to see those changes made sooner than later. “I just think that it’s really unfortunate, because there are people who died for our right to vote. I take my right to vote very seriously,” he said. “It’s just a very hurtful thing to go through, to know that I registered and did everything I was supposed to do, to have my right and civic duty to vote, and then I’m turned away by two places with no good explanation.”
Wednesday morning, Taylor says he also reached out to the Governor’s Office, and did not receive much guidance or help. 47 ABC also reached out to the Governor’s Office, and did not hear back Wednesday.
“I’ll be completely honest. I’m ignorant when it comes to the procedure or what can be done, or what cannot be done because I’m not an official, I am not an elected official, and I don’t work in an area where people come to vote,” said Taylor. “There has to be some steps that are put in place so this doesn’t happen again, because everybody has the right to vote.”
Until then, Taylor says he’s left feeling disheartened about the prospect of voting in November’s General Election. “It really has discouraged me from voting. But, I have until November to get over this. But, the major issue is: will I be fixed in the system by the time November comes? That’s the question.”