Prisoner’s Legal Advocacy Network v. Carney

Location: Delaware
Status: Ongoing
Last Update: March 8, 2024

What's at Stake

Right now, an entire class of eligible voters in Delaware — those incarcerated in Delaware facilities while awaiting trial (“pretrial detainees”) or who have been convicted of misdemeanors, which are not disqualifying under state law (together with pretrial detainees, “eligible incarcerated voters”)—have no constitutional means of voting. Delaware does not permit in-person voting in its correctional facilities. And a recent Delaware Supreme Court decision has now foreclosed these voters from voting absentee. This leaves these voters completely disenfranchised ahead of the 2024 elections, in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

In Delaware, ineligible incarcerated voters are not offered an opportunity for in-person voting. While Delaware allowed eligible incarcerated voters to vote by absentee ballot in the past, in 2022, the Delaware Supreme Court struck down universal mail-in voting, with only few exceptions that did not include eligible incarcerated voters. This leaves thousands of eligible voters without any way to cast a ballot ahead of the November 2024 elections.

The ACLU of Delaware sent multiple letters to Delaware agencies calling on them to adopt in-person voting in Delaware Department of Correctional (“DDOC”) facilities, making clear that the State has a legal responsibility to ensure eligible voters can cast a ballot. In response, Delaware has declined to provide in-person voting opportunities for those residing in DDOC facilities.

Plaintiff PLAN, a coalition of jailhouse lawyers and advocates who support system-impacted individuals, filed suit in November 2023 in federal court in Delaware. Plaintiff asks the court to order Delaware to provide voting machines in facilities across the state. The ACLU, ACLU of Delaware, Shaw Keller LLP, and Proskauer Rose LLP represent PLAN in the case. Plaintiff filed a motion for a preliminary injunction to get relief for eligible incarcerated voters before the November 2024 election. The case is set for a preliminary injunction hearing in April 2024.

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