Corporate State of Delaware: Seaford Could Soon Allow Corporations and LLCs To Vote In The Next Election

Delaware Democrats are pushing forward a Republican bill that would grant corporations the ability to directly participate in municipal elections, signaling a rare display of bipartisan cooperation in the aftermath of the controversial Citizens United ruling. 

Delaware’s Democratic-dominated legislature is considering a measure to expand voting to include businesses. The proposed legislation specifically targets Seaford, a small city with a population of 8,000, located 20 miles north of Salisbury, Maryland.

Delaware’s reputation as a business-friendly state — Delaware native President Joe Biden once dubbed “the corporate state of Delaware” — underpins the rationale behind the bill. If passed, corporations could significantly alter the balance of power in Seaford, where only 340 individuals participated in the most recent election held on April 15. Potentially, as many as 234 votes could be added to the tally from corporate entities.

Critics argue that this move is an outgrowth of the 2010 Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United, which unleashed an unprecedented influx of corporate funds into political campaigns and affirmed corporations’ personhood and free speech rights. 

Claire Snyder-Hall, executive director of the watchdog group Common Cause Delaware, expressed concerns over this development. She told investigative news outlet The Lever: “After Citizens United, this is another step down the road to corporate tyranny. It’s bad enough that Citizens United grants corporations free speech rights. Now Seaford wants to grant them voting rights.”

The controversy surrounding the bill stems from the Seaford City Council’s vote on April 11, where a three-to-two majority passed a charter change enabling corporations to be included on the city’s voter rolls. The process was deemed rushed by former city council member Jose Santos, who opposed the change. The deciding vote came from Mayor David Genshaw, who had also sponsored the charter change. 

To become law, the charter change requires approval from the Delaware state legislature. Despite the bill’s sponsorship by Seaford’s Republican state representative and senator, the Democratic-controlled legislature has not expressed opposition to it. 

State House Speaker Peter Schwartzkopf admitted being conflicted on the matter during a committee hearing. “I don’t think it’s a good idea,” he said. “But I don’t think I want to vote to stop it.”

Again, Delaware is a business-friendly state. It does not impose income taxes on corporations and allows corporate officers to maintain anonymity through complex structures. Its Chancery Court, established two centuries ago, specializes in corporate disputes. Its business court has served as a model for 25 other states, often delivering outcomes more favorable to corporations than regular district courts.

Critics argue that allowing Seaford corporations the right to vote would enable wealthier individuals to vote twice—once in Seaford and once in their city of residence. Snyder-Hall views this as a form of voter dilution and suppression, equating it to efforts to restrict voting. 

In response, progressive state legislators have introduced a bill to impose a blanket ban on corporate voting in Delaware. The fate of the legislation will be determined before the legislative session ends on June 30.

Information for this story was found via The Lever, Delaware Online, and the sources and companies mentioned. The author has no securities or affiliations related to the organizations discussed. Not a recommendation to buy or sell. Always do additional research and consult a professional before purchasing a security. The author holds no licenses.

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