A rural Delaware town is seeking to allow local businesses to vote, sparking concern that corporate interests could influence local elections.
Seaford, Del., which has a population of about 7,000 in the state’s rural west, changed its charter in April to allow each business in town one vote in local elections. For that measure to take effect, it must be approved by the state legislature.
There are 234 businesses registered in the city. Only 340 people voted in the last municipal election on April 15, according to state records, raising questions about corporate influence on election results.
“’One person, one vote’ is a long-agreed principle that governs our elections. The sponsors of this bill tried to make it a harmless way to give business owners more power, but in reality, this legislation has the power to change our elections. worse,” Common Cause Delaware director Claire Snyder-Hall said in a statement. .
The law does not allow a Seaford business owner to vote twice, but allows a non-town resident to vote multiple times: once where they live and once in Seaford for their business.
Any business that wants a vote must own property in the town, which alleviates concerns related to the state’s lax business registration law.
Delaware is a hotspot for shell companies because of its limited registration and tax requirements. The state has more registered businesses — more than 1.8 million, according to state records — than residents.
Seaford isn’t the first Delaware city to adopt such a measure, but the idea has come under fire from voting rights advocates and progressives in the state legislature. Earlier this year, progressives in Delaware proposed a law that would ban corporate voting in the state.
“People who snowbird in Florida can’t vote in Delaware and Florida. It doesn’t work that way,” Snyder-Hall said at a legislative hearing in May.
Rehoboth Beach, Del., the oceanfront home of President Biden, voted down a corporate ballot measure in 2017, following protests by residents.
The measure is expected to be voted on before the end of the legislative session on June 30.
State Rep. Danny Short (R), the law’s sponsor, did not respond to a request for comment.
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