NOTE: There have been a lot of comments on this post. I want to make it clear upfront that we look at Jury Duty as a responsibility and an honor. The issue for us is lack of South Dakota’s flexibility to move the dates with consideration to RV living and travel. I then became concerned about recent bills, that although they did not pass were aimed at restricting RV voter rights.
My husband just received a Summons for Jury Duty in South Dakota. No problem, I thought. We are full-time RVers, miles from SD, and I will just contact them and he will be excused or the date moved. Two days, with emails back and forth and no luck (at all), he is ordered to appear in South Dakota for September/October for 30 days on call.
We are campground hosts through October 20th; we can’t leave the park in the lurch and still expect to be brought back the following year. We also have all our doctors’ appointments and a minor skin cancer treatment scheduled through that time—appointments that took months to get.
December in South Dakota?? In the RV?? In the snow??
I explained all of that, major health issues and more, in detail with the Minnehaha County Jury Manager and the Presiding Judge. They showed no mercy. We were only offered a chance to move it within the year. No, not next year after the spring thaw, but in November or December of this year. December in South Dakota in the winter… on icy roads… in a motorhome. And over Christmas! More than 1,600 miles from our snowbird retreat! To say I was shocked is an understatement.
We asked our readers
On Wednesday, we added a poll to the Full-Time RVer Newsletter and asked if other RVers had seen any changes in their state of residency. 23% have seen changes and some left comments explaining those changes.
Sandy B. has been full-timing for three years and writes, “We have been Floridians since 2020 without a residence there as we are full-timers. We were denied the ability to vote as we have a traveling mailbox that Florida deemed ‘Not a residence’ (even though the traveling mailbox company states you can use it for voting). We were also residents of California before that and also were denied a voter registration due to the traveling mailbox.”
Donna also noticed the change in voting: “We are residents of FL through Bushnell— Escapees. I noticed the same on the absentee ballots. I don’t know what’s changed for jury duty.”
Reader LR wrote us: “We are registered in SD and the new law states we can only vote federally now. I really don’t care about not voting for the state, I feel those that live there year-round should make those decisions anyway.”
Editor’s note: There is a lot of information floating around regarding the voting rules and at this point, I confirmed that absentee voters can vote in local and federal elections. That, of course, could change at any time.
“Full-time RVers not welcome here”
I contacted several businesses that have RVing customers that are affected by new and attempted law changes of rights for full-time RVers. They had a lot to say. Evidently, a number of bills have been submitted in the state legislature aimed at RVers. Russ and Tiña De Maris of RVtravel.com reported on them earlier this year.
There is now an overall concern among RVers that the state wants to oust full-time RVers from voting and residency to ensure voting and enforce jury duty. This would certainly push RVers out of the state. The sign might soon say, “Full-time RVers not welcome here.”
Two bills that did not pass
Two bills to restrict RV voters’ rights were deferred to the “41st” legislative day of a 40-day session, which virtually killed the bills.
- House Bill 1232 basically would have established residency in South Dakota based on a permanent fixed residence that the resident plans on returning to in order to vote.
- Senate Bill 124 basically covered voter registration and referenced that residency could not be a commercial building or campground.
Domicile and voting
Senate Bill 139 did pass and as of July 1, 2023, to vote, you must have established residency in the state for 30 days. Established is a rather vague term and does not specify a bricks-and-sticks building. The Attorney General, Marty Jacky, sent it back to the Secretary of State and declined to do the legal interpretation. He left it to be enforced by state auditors. Again, Russ and Tiña De Maris clarify it in this article. It certainly supports the prevailing agenda and campaign promise of Secretary of State Monae Johnson of “ridding the voting polls of RVers”.
Is it a conspiracy theory?
It has been rumored that these new laws were brought forth because of the fear of voter fraud and accompanying conspiracy theories generated by the 2020 election. There was the misguided belief that tens of thousands of RVers were coming into the state right before the election and voting.
I spoke with a mail forwarding company who processes about 100 new customers a month. They certainly would have known if ten thousand or so new applicants came to their door to be processed! They also have strict standards for all the mail-in ballots that are forwarded and can substantiate that every single one was sent to an established South Dakota resident—they did a full audit.
Are RVers wild-eyed hippie liberals?
If there has been concern by the party in power that RVers are some wild-eyed hippie liberals, the registration polls show that over 85% of registered voters using mail forwarding of ballots are registered Republicans. Those wild-eyed liberal Democrats are only 15% and in no way can overthrow one of the reddest states in the nation.
Are they pot smokers, too?
There was also the unwarranted fear that RVers would tip the tables toward the legalization of marijuana. Very few full-time RVers vote in the local elections. It is overwhelmingly the national elections that concern RVers when they cast their votes.
Laws and at least strict enforcement vary from county to county
Laws differ from county to county in South Dakota, so check your county for any changes, enforcement or interpretation of current laws. Minnehaha County is vastly different than Pennington County. In South Dakota, a number of businesses are actively working to address the issues for RVers. Judges change and they can enforce the laws and rules as they see fit.
I strongly believe that this attempt to change laws for full-time RVers in South Dakota or any other states favorable to RVers is shortsighted. As most South Dakota full-time RVers, we rarely travel there. We do not use the roads, the schools, parks or a myriad of other things our RV sales and registration tax, vehicle license tabs or online sales tax helps pay for.
We are after all the “Golden Goose.”
Another business owner very close to this issue let me know that rumors abound and most of them are false. He assured me that companies and various governmental bodies are working together to provide timely and accurate information. He believes strongly that South Dakota is not going to do anything that will damage their full-time RV “Golden Goose”.
For us, there appear to be a couple of options at this point. 1) Go to South Dakota (a 1,600-mile drive from Arizona) in the winter in the RV, rent an Airbnb for a month and miss Christmas with our kids. Or 2) Change residency to a different state or change counties of residence. While changing counties may be the easiest, it may not be the best long-term solution. We value deeply our ability to vote and will do whatever we need to continue that fundamental right to have our voices heard and vote.
Please add your comments below. Are you a full-time RVer seeing changes to voting and residency laws in your state?