Saturday, July 1, 2023

A look at the municipalities in Delaware that have granted voting rights to corporations, and the exploits that have been attempted

A real "the future's not evenly distributed" moment--seemed totally crazy when I first saw that a Delaware city was contemplating letting corporations vote alongside people in municipal elections, but turns out there are already municipalities in Delaware that allow it:

For local elections in the United States, voting eligibility rules differ from place to place. But usually the baseline requirement is that voters be humans who are alive and voting on their own behalf.

Some municipalities in Delaware, however, have broadened the definition of a voter to include “artificial entities” such as businesses, LLCs, partnerships and trusts.


How influential could that be in future Seaford elections? That depends partly on human voter turnout. Considering only 340 people cast ballots out of more than 5,000 registered voters in the last municipal election, 234 businesses could be a significant influence if they all show up.


Last year, the number of business entities registered in the state exceeded 1.9 million and is on track this year to top 2 million, according to Delaware’s division of corporations. By contrast, the state’s population barely tops 1 million. That is roughly two registered businesses per person.

Delaware Public

House Republican lawmakers staged a walkout on Thursday night after blocking passage of Delaware’s proposed $1.4 billion capital budget – a strategy to force Democrats to approve an amendment to Seaford’s charter that would give artificial entities like LLCs and churches a vote in municipal elections.


Critics included the ACLU of Delaware, which argued the change would give corporate entities an outsize voice in city decision-making and dilute the votes of residents; others noted that Delaware law allows the stakeholders in an LLC to remain anonymous, making it difficult to verify whether a single person who owns multiple LLCs could appoint multiple designees to vote in a Rehoboth election.

Two years later, Newark encountered the latter problem: the city allowed artificial entities to vote in referendums, and in a June 2019 referendum, 22 LLCs registered to the same address cast votes, prompting Newark’s council to roll back voting rights for artificial entities.