Letter to the Editor: Allowing artificial entity voting could result in ‘undesirable manipulation,’ says Seaford resident


On April 11, Seaford’s mayor and City Council approved allowing voting rights for nonresident owners of Seaford property (titled with business names), called “artificial entities” or nonpersons.

This is another highly controversial change to Seaford’s charter. There was much thoughtful pushback against the change from two members of the City Council worthy of consideration. (The meeting is archived here youtube.com/watch?v=VmwYBWNZ218.)

Unfortunately for citizens, with one City Council member absent, the tiebreaking vote was cast by the measure’s sponsor and champion, Mayor David Genshaw.

While Genshaw’s vote was technically legal, ethical considerations over his vested conflict of interest should have dictated his recusal from this vote. The measure should not have been passed on ethical grounds. Obviously, this ethical breach by Seaford’s mayor should be carefully considered by the General Assembly as part of the reasons to oppose this change.

Further, on March 14, Mayor Genshaw initially characterized his rationale for this proposed change as a small accommodation for “12 long-term” nonresidents who owned Seaford property. However, during discussion among mayor and City Council on April 11, city manager Charles Anderson revealed significantly different, new information: There are actually 200-plus potential nonperson/artificial entity voters in Seaford (youtube.com/watch?v=VmwYBWNZ218).

Knowing full well that the voter turnout in Seaford municipal elections has consistently been very low, Mayor Genshaw bluntly refused a request from this Seaford resident to ask about the potential impact of 200-plus newly enfranchised nonperson voters on the outcomes of future municipal elections in Seaford.

Answering that question involves the use of voting levels in past elections: about 300 in 2019, about 600 in 2020 (mayoral election), about 315 in 2021, about 600 in 2022 (mayoral election) and about 340 in 2023. From these results, it is obvious that making 200-plus nonpersons eligible to vote, followed by many nonpersons actually voting, could easily sway nonmayoral elections (as in 2019, 2021 and 2023) and/or tip the results in some mayoral elections (as in 2020 when the winner was decided by 47 votes of the 594 ballots cast).

Mayor Genshaw’s stated reasons behind his diligent efforts to ramrod through a charter change permitting the enfranchisement of 200-plus new nonpersons are, at best, highly dubious, especially considering there were 4,680 already eligible voters who did not vote in the April 15 elections.

This radical inconsistency raises a much bigger question about the true motivation(s) behind the push to enfranchise nonpersons: Why have the mayor and City Council focused inordinate amounts of time, attention and effort to enfranchise a few new potential nonperson voters and essentially ignored the much greater need to get thousands of already eligible nonvoters out to vote?

This proposed charter change is not just a case of badly misplaced priorities.

This proposed charter change does provide the opportunity for undesirable manipulation of the results in low-voter-turnout elections by injecting a substantial number of nonperson voters into those elections and by the complexity of determining the legitimacy of nonperson voter registrations. There would be potential for some number of unethical nonpersons to be persuaded to vote for the “right” candidates. Further, nefarious “mischief” resulting in even worse outcomes could be possible, even plausible.

Clearly, any of these possible negative scenarios could/would seriously compromise the integrity of municipal elections in Seaford, and General Assembly passage of this charter change given these dubious circumstances would be most unwise.

Finally, I also believe that, as a former Seaford city councilperson put it, “voting is meant to be of the people, by the people and for the people — not LLCs.”

For these and other reasons, members of the Delaware General Assembly should oppose this proposed Seaford charter change, which would allow nonperson voting.

Dan Cannon


Editor’s note: House Bill 121, sponsored by Rep. Danny Short and Sen. Bryant Richardson, both R-Seaford, was assigned to the Administration Committee in the House of Representatives. It was released to the House on Wednesday, with five votes approving on its merits, and placed on the House agenda on Thursday, but was later removed.

Members and subscribers make this story possible.
You can help support non-partisan, community journalism.