Rehoboth voting-rights measure raises questions

November 7, 2017

Rehoboth Beach commissioners are considering changing city charter rules about who can vote in municipal elections.

In most communities, only people who live in a municipality are qualified to vote. Rehoboth is one of a handful of Delaware towns that allows nonresident property owners and long-term leaseholders to vote.

But this practice raises a question: Whether a person lives in or out of town, if a person owns five properties, is that person entitled to one vote or five votes?

In a time when properties are not necessarily owned by people but instead by limited liability companies or other artificial entities, the question of voting rights becomes even more complicated.

Kathy McGuiness, a nonresident commissioner who proposed the new measure, said the idea is to ensure one person, one vote. As proposed, it's not clear the ordinance would accomplish that.

Instead, it extends voting rights to people who own properties through LLCs. Someone who attests to owning at least 50 percent of an LLC would apparently be entitled to a vote for every LLC attested to.

Changes to the rules for leaseholders were also proposed, but in recent discussions those changes were abandoned.

The question is, who benefits from the proposed changes? What is the purpose of extending voting rights to more people who live elsewhere but own businesses or buy up properties, holding them in LLCs? At this rate, the city will be governed not by its residents but by people who live out of town.

Rehoboth has long allowed nonresident property owners to vote, and it's not easy to take away anyone's voting rights.

The current proposal gives votes to a new group of nonresidents. This will only further dilute the votes of those who choose to call Rehoboth Beach their home.

There's a far simpler solution to the rights of LLCs.

If you want to own property in an LLC and vote in city elections, move to Rehoboth.

Problem solved.

  • Editorials are considered by the editorial board and written by Laura Ritter, news editor, and Dennis Forney, publisher, with occasional contributions from other board members: Trish Vernon, editor; Dave Frederick, sports editor emeritus; Jen Ellingsworth, associate editor; Nick Roth, sports editor; and Chris Rausch, associate publisher.