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1302 1 of 2


According to the 1776 constitution, Delaware’s president was chosen by a joint ballot of both the council of the Delaware State and the House of Assembly. The president was elected for a three year term, and could hold a second term, as long as it was not consecutive. He was to exercise all executive powers of state government, such as enforcing embargoes and granting reprieves or pardons (excepting those that were being handled by the House of Assembly).1

The 1792 constitution directed that the executive powers be henceforth vested in a governor, to be chosen by direct vote of the citizens. The votes were tallied by the Secretary of the Senate (or Secretary of the House in his absence), with any tie votes being broken by ballot of members of both houses. Any contested elections were to be decided by a committee consisting of one-third of the members of each House. The governor was required to be at least thirty years of age, a citizen of the United States for at least twelve years, and a resident of Delaware for at least six years.2

Continuing the duties from the previous constitution, the governor was to be the commander of the State’s army, navy, and militia; appoint any designated state officials and commission members; recommend measures to the General Assembly; and periodically report to the General Assembly, when necessary, for special sessions.3

The governor was permitted to appoint a secretary, whose responsibility was to maintain a register of all acts and proceedings, and to keep these books, minutes, and vouchers in proper order to facilitate easy access at any time.4

One other significant change brought about by the 1792 Constitution was the stipulation that whenever the governor was deemed unfit or unable to perform the duties of his office, the General Assembly could, with two-thirds vote of each House, remove him from office. Should the governor die or resign, the Speaker of the Senate and the Speaker of the House assume his duties, in that order.5

The 1831 constitution made few changes, with the most significant being an expansion of the governor’s term of office from three to four years, but not permitting a second term. The election returns were now to be deposited with the Speaker of the Senate, and in his absence, the Secretary of State, rather than the Speaker of the House. The Secretary of State was added to the chain of succession to the governorship, following the Speaker of the House.6

The 1897 Constitution, under which the state still functions, expanded the governor’s duties and responsibilities. The four year term remained, but the governor is allowed a second term only, not a third. He has the power to fill all vacancies in elective offices, and can remove those same officials with sufficient support by the legislature. The chief justice now presides over any contested election committees. The governor now appoints his own secretary of state.7

All bills passed by both houses of the legislature must be submitted to the governor for his signature, and he may return legislation to the House and Senate unsigned, with an attached explanation of his objections. After ten days, submitted legislation automatically becomes law even without the governor’s signature. Returned legislation can still be enacted, notwithstanding the governor’s veto, if three-fifths of both houses vote to that effect.8

A lieutenant governor is elected concurrently with the governor, and also serves as the president of the senate and as a member of the Board of Pardons. Thus, the line of succession in the absence of the governor is lieutenant governor, secretary of state, attorney general, president of the senate, and speaker of the house.9

1302 2 of 2


The 1897 Constitution also states that if the chief justice of the Supreme Court, the president of the Medical Society of Delaware, and the commissioner of the Department of Mental Health declare that the governor is unfit to hold office, they have the power to remove him, after notifying the president of the senate and the speaker of the house of their decision.10

1 1776 Constitution, Article 7.

2 1792 Constitution, Article 3.

3 Ibid.

4 Ibid.

5 Ibid.

6 1831 Constitution, Article 3.

7 1897 Constitution, Article 3.

8 Ibid.

9 Ibid.

10 Ibid.

???/February 1, 1989