Federal prosecutors won a two-month prison sentence against a North Carolina elections official who pushed a Mexican citizen to register and vote in the 2016 election.
Denslo Allen Paige, 66, who had worked as a precinct official in Wake County, pleaded guilty last week to aiding and abetting Guadalupe Espinosa-Pena to sign up.
Prosecutors said Paige was aware Mr. Espinosa-Pena wasn’t eligible to vote, but told her that “if he wanted his voice to be heard, he needed to vote.”
She then helped him fill out his form — but had him leave the box for citizenship blank. Paige submitted the form, and at some point the box for citizenship was checked, prosecutors say.
“When a non-citizen votes in a federal election it serves to dilute and devalue the vote of American citizens and places the decision making authority of the American electorate in the hands of those who have no right to make those choices,” said Robert J. Higdon Jr., the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina.
The U.S. attorney’s office identified Paige as “a paid volunteer and former election official with the North Carolina Board of Elections.” A spokesman later said Paige was “an official with the board of elections at the time she did the offense she was sentenced for.”
But the state board said it could find no record of Paige. Gary Sims, elections director for the Wake County Board of Elections, said she had worked as a precinct official for them, meaning she was paid a stipend to help with a polling place on Election Day.
Paige’s plea was entered Thursday.
Also Thursday, Dieudonne Soifils, 72, a Haitian citizen who registered and voted illegally in the 2012 and 2016 elections, was sentenced to 12 months’ probation.
Soifils, Paige and Mr. Espinosa-Pena were all registered as Democrats.
They were among 19 people indicted in North Carolina last year for fraudulent voting activities.
Eighteen of them were accused of voting as noncitizens, while Paige was accused of aiding in illegal voting.
Of the 19, 14 were registered Democrats.
Logan Churchwell, spokesman for the Public Interest Legal Foundation, an election integrity group, said prosecutions for those who aid illegal voting are unusual.
“This case will hopefully serve as a strong example for the consequences that can be paid for those who willfully encourage ineligible residents to vote,” he said. “Too often, only the usually confused immigrant pays the price when someone prematurely exposes them to the voting system. Some foreign influences in our elections are actively welcomed by the very people we entrust to service our voting rights.”
He said it was noteworthy that Mr. Espinosa-Pena’s application was submitted without the citizenship box checked — yet it was later checked “Yes.”
He pointed to a handbook from a major jurisdiction in California that told election officials to automatically check “Yes” if the citizenship box was left blank.
Mr. Sims, the Wake County official, said in his county they do not process applications without the citizenship box checked. He said standard practice in Wake is to send out a follow-up letter alerting the applicant to the omission.