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Wake County election official helped an illegal voter cast a ballot. Now she’s going to prison.

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A 2018 shows then-White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer talks about President Trump's belief that millions voted illegally committing voter fraud.
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A 2018 shows then-White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer talks about President Trump's belief that millions voted illegally committing voter fraud.

A 66-year-old election official in Wake County will spend two months in federal prison for helping a Mexican citizen vote in the 2016 election.

U.S. District Court Judge Louise Wood Flanagan sentenced Denslo Allen Paige on Friday after a federal court hearing in New Bern following her guilty plea to aiding and abetting an alien, U.S. Attorney Robert Higdon announced.

Federal court records show Paige assisted Guadalupe Espinosa-Pena, encouraging him to vote though she knew he wasn’t a citizen. Espinosa-Pena, 66 at the time of last year’s arrest, is a foreign national or temporary resident ineligible to cast a ballot.

Paige helped Espinosa-Pena fill out a voter registration card and intentionally left the box asking about his citizenship unchecked, Higdon said, telling him “if he wanted his voice to be heard, he needed to vote.”

Paige told the Huffington Post in 2018 that she helped her boyfriend register because he had been talking a lot about politics. She said she wasn’t sure if he was eligible and expected to have to ask about it, but a poll worker accepted the form and said voting would be fine.

“I’m scared to death,” Paige told the Huffington Post, adding that she worked at Walmart at the time. “I really wasn’t sure. I’m an American. What in the heck do I know about foreigners?”

At some later point, the citizenship box was checked “yes.”

“When a non-citizen votes in a federal election it serves to dilute and devalue the vote of American citizens,” Higdon said in a press release, “and places the decision making authority of the American electorate in the hands of those who have no right to make those choices. This case is particularly disturbing as the defendant worked for the Board of Elections.”

Higdon’s office described Paige as a paid volunteer and former election official. Wake County records show Denlo Paige as a precinct official.

Paige’s case continues an emphasis on immigrant voters that dates to Augusts, when federal agents charged 19 people in Eastern North Carolina with casting ballots without citizenship. They came from various countries including Mexico, Haiti, the Philippines and Poland.

In announcing the arrests last year, Higdon said some people faced six years in prison and a $350,000 fine, and that others faced up to six years of federal confinement.

But so far, U.S. District Judge Terrence Boyle has handed down far more lenient punishments to some of the 19 and criticized local election officials for ignorance of the law. Of five prosecuted so far, four of them were punished with a $100 fine. The fifth had a $200 sentence.

Also on Friday, Flanagan sentenced a Haitian noncitizen from the group of 19 — Dieudonne Soifils, 72, of Beaufort County — to 12 months probation.

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Josh Shaffer covers Wake County and federal courts. He has been a reporter for The News & Observer since 2004 and previously wrote a column about unusual people and places.

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