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Agency responsible for administering State Election Laws.

Legislation effective April 14, 1939 abolished the Department of Elections of the City of Wilmington and created the Department of Elections for New Castle County. All duties, functions, and responsibilities of the former department were transferred to the new department with the area of responsibility enlarged to include all of New Castle County.1

The new Department of Elections for New Castle County was to be composed of nine members, chosen for six year terms. All were to be salaried employees. Two members were to be from the City of Wilmington and four from the county outside of the city limits.

The New Castle County Department of Elections was responsible for creating election districts and revising them as the need arose, as well as registering voters, conducting elections, and appointing election officials to serve as registrars, assistant registrars, inspectors and judges of elections for each district. Clerks of elections, two per district, were also appointed by the department each election year.

In 1945 the legislation pertaining to the department was amended, slightly clarifying the appointment and duties of the members of the department. The elected president and the secretary (as the clerk was known) were to serve two year terms.2 The appointments of election officers was removed from the department and made the responsibility of the then newly created Bureau of Registration for New Castle County.3 Responsibility for maintaining voters’ registration books was also transferred to the new Bureau. The Department of Elections still could dismiss any election officer not fulfilling his position but was required to notify the bureau immediately in order that a successor could be appointed. Clerks of election were still appointed by the Department.

The next General Assembly in 1947 further confused the issue of the two agencies by trying to merge the Bureau of Registration with the Department of Elections and at the same time not abolishing either structure.4 At the same time the existing New Castle County Department of Elections was expanded to eleven members with four year terms. Of the eleven members, ten were to be nominated by the state chairmen of the two leading political parties (each nominating five). The remaining member was to be nominated by the Governor. Members nominated by party chairman were then appointed by the Governor. There were never to be more than six members of any political party serving at the same time.5 Departments of Elections for the other two counties were created by this same General Assembly.

The size of the membership was increased to twelve in 1953. All were to be appointed by the Governor. Each principal political party was to be represented by at least five members.6 This same legislature also abolished the Bureau of Registration, transferring all its powers and duties to the Department of Elections.7

In May of 1955, the legislature passed a bill, without the Governor’s approval, abolishing the existing Department of Elections for New Castle County and creating a new Department of Elections for New Castle County. All of the power and duties of the previous department were transferred to the new department. Membership was reduced from twelve to eleven, six from Wilmington and five from county outside Wilmington. The two principal political parties were to be represented by at least three members each at all times.8 All eleven members named were to serve until 1961 at which time the Governor was to appoint members for new six year terms.

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On December 5th of the same year the legislature again passed legislation concerning the Department of Elections without the Governor’s approval. This time the Act of May 18 was repealed; the old department reinstated; the actions of the ‘May’ Department ratified; the membership increased to seventeen; appointments made to fill the new positions and existing vacancies; and the date of organization changed from “fourth Monday in April” to “1st Monday in November.”9

On December 19th of the same year the “organization” date was again changed “to conform to the new system of registration.” The phrase “in each odd-numbered year” was changed to read “fourth Monday in December.”10

In this same year, the office of State Election Commissioner (RG 1322) was also created.

In 1959 the General Assembly revised the number of the members of the department, reducing it from seventeen to twelve, as it was from 1953 to 1955.11

An act providing that the Department of Elections designate the election officer to serve as inspector of elections was passed in June of 1963.12 In the same month the department also assumed the few election responsibilities formerly performed by the clerk of the peace of each county, (e.g. supplying the ballots).13 Also in 1963 they again revised the number of members, raising the number to fifteen until 1965 when the number was reduced to eleven again.14

In 1969 the General Assembly revised the election laws for the state. The composition, appointments, term and qualifications of the members of the Department of Elections from New Castle County were updated. Under this change the governor would appoint the ten member board, eight of whom must come equally from the two principal political parties and be chosen from nominees suggested by the two principal parties as before. Furthermore, the city of Wilmington may have no more than seven representatives with the remaining three to come from “rural New Castle County.” All appointments require the consent of the Senate.15

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1 42 DL, ch. 115.

2 45 DL, ch. 147.

3 Ibid., ch. 144.

4 46 DL, ch. 185.

5 Ibid., ch. 182.

6 49 DL, ch. 371.

7 Ibid., ch. 4.

8 50 DL, ch. ch. 155.

9 Ibid., ch. 545.

10 Ibid., ch. 557.

11 52 DL, ch. 129.

12 54 DL, ch. 58.

13 Ibid., ch. 69.

14 Ibid., ch. 163.

15 57 DL, ch. 181 § 103.

???; date of edit-January 3, 1989