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What Does it Mean to Vote Smart Justice?

The ACLU of Delaware and the Campaign for Smart Justice partnered with Game Changers to re-launch our Vote Smart Justice Delaware campaign for the 2020 elections. This campaign aims to end racial bias in policing practices by advocating for police reform in Wilmington. 

For this election season, we’re focusing on the local Wilmington elections because the next cohort of Wilmington city council people and the next Wilmington mayor will play vital roles in building trust between community members and law enforcement. Trust can only be restored and sustained through transparency and accountability. The public has a right to know about the results of investigations into police misconduct and when police are punished. Without transparency in the process, the public may remain suspicious that officers are not held accountable for their actions. Transparency benefits law enforcement as well by demonstrating when officers acted appropriately. 

We sent a candidate questionnaire to each city council and mayoral candidate in the 2020 Wilmington elections to learn their positions on police reform. Every candidate’s response is listed on our “Meet the Candidates” page.

Our goal is to empower Wilmington voters to make an informed decision when going to the polls. Learn where your candidates stand, then #VoteSmartJustice in the State Primary and General Elections.

Police Reform

The Vote Smart Justice platform focuses on 4 categories:

  1. Transparency
  2. Use/abuse of force
  3. Police accountability
  4. Ending invasive police tactics that primarily impact communities of color.

The Vote Smart Justice campaign demands that Wilmington elected officials implement policy changes that will result in fair, transparent and ethical policing for all Wilmington residents. 

Wilmington’s mayor and city council members are legislators who are democratically elected to lead the city and enact policies that create opportunity and prosperity to its residents. The mayor and city council members have a difficult and important job, and have a great deal of responsibility for overseeing the local police department. 

City council members have the power to:

  • Oversee performance and effectiveness of the local public employees and programs

  • Establish regulations, including maintaining police departments

  • Respond to constituent needs and complaints

  • Pass ordinances and resolutions

In addition to the powers of the city council, mayors oversee the city’s daily operations and have the power to veto measures passed by the city council.

If the mayor and city council members use their power to promote better policing approaches, we could dramatically increase public trust in our police department. 

Meet the Candidates

Wilmington city council members and the Wilmington mayor have a unique power in the fight for police reform. That’s why it’s so important to learn where the candidates stand on this important issue, to elect candidates who are reform-committed, and then to hold them accountable to their promises.

Election Info

Can People Who Have Felonies Vote?

Most people with felony convictions are able to register to vote after completion of their sentence, including probation.

People who are convicted of certain felonies — including murder or manslaughter, some against public administration and bribery, and felony sexual offenses — are permanently disenfranchised unless they receive a pardon from the governor.

Vote By Mail

The most convenient way to request a vote-by-mail ballot and learn more about the vote-by-mail process is to visit the voter portal at iVote.DE.gov. Additionally, all registered voters will be mailed vote by mail applications for the 2020 primary and general elections. You may fill out and return those forms by mail or drop them off directly at your local board of elections office.

Important Election Dates 2020

September 15: State Primary Election

  • Polls open 7 a.m. – 8 p.m. Only registered voters from participating parties may vote.
  • Absentee and vote by mail ballots must be returned to your local elections office by 8 p.m.

October 10: Deadline to Register to Vote in the General Election

November 3: General Election

  • Polls open 7 a.m. – 8 p.m. Only registered voters from participating parties may vote.
  • Absentee and vote by mail ballots must be returned to your local elections office by 8 p.m.

Do I Need an ID to vote?

No, but poll workers will ask you to show proof of identity. If you do not show ID, you must fill out a form before you can vote. Showing ID makes checking you in faster and reduces mistakes. IDs may include:

  • Delaware Drivers License or State ID

  • U.S. Passport

  • Signed Polling Place or Social Security Card

  • Signed vehicle registration

  • Signed credit card with photo

  • A similar document that identifies the person by photo or signature

Partners

Take Action

Police reform begins with our votes and our voices. Elected officials may hold the cards, but we are the ones who hold the power to change the system.

No matter where you live in Delaware, make your voice heard and elect officials who are committed to changing police practices and investing more in communities than law enforcement.

REDUCE INCARCERATION

The next Delaware attorney general must commit to reducing the number of people going to prison and eliminating racial disparities that affect who goes to prison and for how long. The attorney general must also recognize that public safety is best served by focusing on solving the problems that lead to crime rather than maximizing sentences after crimes have already occurred.

Expand use of alternatives to prison
The attorney general is the gatekeeper to Delaware’s criminal justice system. The attorney general and the professional prosecutors in the attorney general’s office decide whether someone who is living with mental illness or a drug addiction will get access to treatment and rehabilitation, or whether they will instead be charged with a crime that is likely to result in jail time. The next Delaware attorney general must expand use of treatment and diversion, instructing deputies to refer more cases to diversion and advocating for wider eligibility. By targeting the underlying problems that lead to a crime in the first place, effective diversion programs can make Delaware safer and our justice system fairer.

Send fewer people to prison with shorter sentences
Prosecutors helped lead us into our country’s mass incarceration crisis, and we need them to help lead us out of it. The next Delaware attorney general must abandon the culture of locking up as many people as possible for as long as possible. They must replace it with a culture of fairness and seeking only the sentence necessary to deter crime. As the most influential law enforcement figure in the state, the attorney general must also commit to advocating for legislative changes that will fight mass incarceration.

End money bail
Almost a quarter of people in prison in Delaware are there without having been convicted of any crime. They are detained until their trial because they cannot afford their money bail. Money bail punishes people for not having financial resources and causes people to lose jobs, housing, cars, medical care and even child custody. The next Delaware attorney general must use their power and influence to communicate the harms of the money bail system and the need for reform, and should instruct their deputies not to ask for money bail for misdemeanor and theft offenses.

FAIRNESS, TRANSPARENCY, AND ACCOUNTABILITY

End racial bias and disparities in prosecution
Across Delaware, there are too many people of color caught up in the criminal justice system. Our next attorney general must commit to ending racial disparities in prosecutorial decision-making. This will require tracking and publishing statistics about the decisions made by their office, including disparities in charging decisions (including decisions not to prosecute), bail recommendations, diversionary program placements, sentence recommendations and plea bargains.

Let the public judge your performance
Too little information about prosecutors is made public. This lack of transparency prevents the Delaware community from knowing what decisions are being made or the outcomes of those decisions. Fully transparent practices and outcomes improve decision-making, allow the public to hold the attorney general accountable, and enable the public to push the attorney general in other areas in the future. In addition to publishing statistics about prosecutorial decisions, the attorney general should also pledge to publish policies regarding prosecution guidelines, police-involved incidents, bail recommendations, fines and fees, diversion programs, plea bargains, civil asset forfeiture and immigration considerations.

Listen to community needs
Achieving safety and justice is a community-wide effort. The next Delaware attorney general should evaluate their success based on how satisfied the communities most impacted by crime are, not based on how many convictions they get or how long the sentences are. Listening to the community also means holding police and prosecutors responsible when they engage in misconduct.