Investigation follows reports that voters claimed to be voting at multiple locations
A Delaware senator has asked the state attorney general’s office to investigate alleged voter fraud in last week’s Red Clay Consolidated School District’s referendum.
Sen. Karen Peterson, D-Stanton, made the request of AG Matt Denn following a report that a group of parents who had just finished voting at one location said that they were proceeding to another polling place to vote again.
The Tuesday, Feb. 24 referendum, which proposes an incremental increase in property taxes over the next three years, passed by a narrow margin of 6,395 to 5,515, winning by only 880 votes.
Under the referendum’s guidelines, property taxes increase 20 cents per $100 of assessed property value in 2016, 10 cents in 2017 and an additional 5 cents in 2018, for a total 35-cent increase per $100 of assessed property value.
New Castle County residents are not assigned a specific polling place in school district referendums and can vote at any school within the district.
Voters are required to sign an affidavit when voting, and the Department of Elections has 15 days from `the referendum to identify any duplicate votes prior to certifying the election results.
“In an election where nearly 12,000 people voted and 880 votes decided the outcome, it would only take 441 duplicate votes to change the results of the election,” Peterson said via press release. “Before Red Clay raises property taxes, I want to be assured that the election was not affected by fraudulent voting.”
Red Clay Spokesperson Pati Nash said that the district is unaware of any irregularities in the voting process, and that they did not encourage anyone to vote more than once.
“We expect that the election will be certified,” Nash said.
Department of Elections director Anthony Albence said his office is undertaking its usual procedure of updating voter history to determine who voted in the election.
“If there is evidence that someone voted more than once, we refer the information to the Department of Justice for follow-up,” Albence said. “Our Department does not have law enforcement powers. The Department of Justice would then follow up on the matter, as they deem appropriate.”
Albence also said that the DOE doesn't have the authority to order a new election, and that it was impossible to simply dismiss duplicate votes, as the votes are recorded on the voting machine and individual votes cannot be tied to an individual voter.
As for questions on the criminal consequences, Albence said he cannot comment on law enforcement or legal matters.
“That would be a decision of the Department of Justice,” he said.
DOJ Public Information Officer Carl Kanefsky said that Peterson on Monday morning that an investigation would be conducted and that the Department would coordinate with the Department of Elections as to how it should be conducted.
“The New Castle County Department of Elections will conduct an initial investigation based on voter affidavits it possesses,” he said. “DOJ will do any necessary follow-up fact investigation and will make any charging decisions based on the investigation.”