Photo of Elaine Manlove

[Image via gannett]

The elections community lost a great colleague yesterday with the report that former Delaware election commissioner Elaine Manlove and her husband were killed in a two-car accident on Monday afternoon. Delaware State News has more:

Former Delaware Elections Commissioner Elaine Manlove and her husband, Wayne, died from injuries suffered in a two-vehicle collision Monday afternoon, according to public officials.

Mrs. Manlove stepped down as Delaware’s commissioner of elections in 2019, completing a 12-year tenure. Her time as commissioner was highlighted by a shift of part of the state’s voter registration system from paper to electronic, along with the purchase of new voting machines….

According to Delaware State Police, Mrs. Manlove, a 72-year-old Ocean View resident, was driving a vehicle that was rear-ended by a tractor-trailer on northbound U.S. 13 in New Castle at approximately 1:53 p.m. Monday, police said. Her 2019 Chevrolet Equinox was stopped at a red light at the intersection with Red Lion Road when struck.

She and Mr. Manlove, 75, were wearing seat belts at the time, police said. They were transported to Christiana Hospital where they were pronounced deceased, [police] said.

According to police, the tractor-trailer pushed the Equinox off the roadway upon impact, causing it to spin out of control and strike a tree.

The tractor-trailer driver, a 41-year-old man from Ephrata, Pennsylvania, was not injured, police said.

Public officials in Delaware expressed shock at Elaine’s death and celebrated her life of service to the state:

Gov. John Carney expressed his condolences in a statement Tuesday.

“Tracey and I are devastated by the tragic news about Elaine Manlove and her husband, Wayne,” he said.

“I’ve known Elaine since our days working together for New Castle County Executive Dennis Greenhouse in the early 1990s. Elaine was one of the most positive people I’ve ever known — and could light up any room. We are praying hard for Elaine and Wayne’s children, their entire family and many friends. Elaine spent the last two decades protecting our fundamental right to vote — 12 of those years as Delaware’s Elections Commissioner.

“She delayed her retirement to help prepare for the unprecedented challenges of the 2020 election. Elaine and Election Day have been one and the same for years. She was a public servant and a good friend. We are also sending strength today to Elaine’s second family at the Department of Elections. This is not an easy day for them, but I know they will be working hard to protect our democracy and make Elaine proud…”

U.S. Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., also expressed sadness at the death of Mr. and Mrs. Manlove.

“Martha and I are devastated to learn of the passing of Elaine and her husband, Wayne. Elaine was a consummate public servant, a visionary and incredibly committed to honest and secure elections.

“One of her greatest professional achievements over her 12 years as elections commissioner was modernizing Delaware’s voting machines, as well as working with the education community to bring elections and civics lessons into Delaware’s classrooms.

“It’s a cruel irony that her passing occurred on the eve of Election Day, after she dedicated her life to protecting the integrity of the elections we hold so dear. Elaine and Wayne recently celebrated their 51st wedding anniversary, and my heart goes out to their children and grandchildren today. May we honor Elaine by ensuring that, this Election Day, every person who wants to vote can vote, and every ballot that is casted is counted. I know that so many across Delaware will be thinking of Elaine today.”

Elaine was a true pioneer in the election community; she oversaw the implementation of a DMV-based registration system that would inspire reforms in other states and helped lay the groundwork for much the registration modernization programs across the nation in recent years. Here’s how she described that system in her “exit interview” with electionline’s Mindy Moretti last year:

What are you most proud of during your tenure as Delaware Election Commissioner?

I have a great IT team and because of them, we were able to solve a problem that I thought was unique to Delaware – not getting everything from DMV.  We developed what we call e-signature so that all voter registrations and declinations would come electronically from DMV to the Elections office in real time.  We saw it only as a solution to our problem and we never envisioned that it would morph into Automatic Voter Registration. I still think e-signature is better because voters have completed everything when they leave DMV.  We don’t have to send out follow up information which is an added expense and not always effective. On the e-signature platform, we built online voter registration and also eliminated all paper applications that come to our offices by scanning in the signed application and electronically linking it to the application in the system.  These changes dramatically improved the way we do business.

With all due respect to Oregon, Delaware under your leadership really led the way for automatic voter registration. What are your thoughts on how far we’ve come on AVR and how far we still have to go?
As I said, I believe Delaware was the frontrunner in AVR even if we don’t automatically register everyone.  Motor voter is federal law but we need to make it easy for everyone and that starts with DMV. DMV is the touch point for most citizens and it often seems like they are the point of contact for anything and everything that government needs to get to citizens.  I know e-signature makes it easier for the staff at DMV. It’s just a win-win: a cost saver, a time-saver, and a simple and efficient way to register citizens to vote. I would love to sit down with every DMV director in the country and explain that this makes it easier for their agencies.  The amazing DMV Director that worked with us saw that right away!

One reason why Elaine was so successful was her can-do, up-for-anything attitude; that, plus her obvious love of the job and the people she worked with, made her a standout in an often difficult field. She was an inspiring person and a great colleague and she will be missed terribly.

This is a tough, tough loss for the field and me personally – my deepest condolences to the extended Manlove family for this terrible tragedy. Godspeed, Elaine.