Thursday, November 30, 2023


South Dakota proposes law to end full-time RVers’ domicile, voting rights

South Dakota has long been recognized as a haven for full-time RVers. With no state income tax, low fees on vehicle registration and other privileges, many RVers from other states have “set up shop” with one of the state’s many private mailbox services to officially establish residency there. But proposed legislation, if passed, will likely end such benefits for both existing and future full-timers.

Both a House and Senate bill would, for example, if passed as written, wipe out a full-time RVer’s ability to vote in the Mount Rushmore state. The other bill would essentially ban anyone from establishing residency there unless they actually lived in the state.


“Fixed the person’s habitation”

Both bill titles are cast in a similar way. House Bill 1232 is entitled, “An Act to revise provisions related to residency for voter registration.” Senate Bill 124, “An Act to update maintenance and verification requirements for voter registration files,” covers more area, but has a similar crimping action. Here are the points of the bills that could affect full-time RVers.

House Bill 1232, sponsored by Karla Lems, a District 16 Republican, would amend existing South Dakota law. It focuses on residency issues, declaring, “the term, residence, means the place in which a person has fixed the person’s habitation and to which the person, whenever absent, intends to return.” Here are some key definitions from the bill of particular interest to RVers who want to be voters.

“The residence of the person is a place in which the person’s habitation is fixed and to which the person has a definite plan to return following an absence.” And another, “The person maintains a domicile with long-term sleeping accommodations at the location, unless the person is homeless and lacks a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence or domicile.”

Are you “homeless”?

Some full-time RVers could make the argument that by some definition, they are “homeless and lacking a fixed and regular nighttime residence.” The proposed law would make allowance for folks like that. But the allowance is limited to those living in a temporary shelter, or those who are “institutionalized.” A final, somewhat vague exception is this one: “A public or private place not designed for, or ordinarily used as, a regular sleeping accommodation.” Living in your RV, under this legislation, doesn’t make you homeless.

No person may register to vote using a business location or campground as the registration address.

What about rolling into a South Dakota RV park, plunking down rent, and then registering to vote? A section in the bill reads, “No person may register to vote using a business location or campground as the registration address.” That would seem to rule out using a private mailbox service as an address, as well.

“Not a commercial or industrial address”

Senate Bill 124, introduced by Julie Frye-Mueller, a Republican from District 30, also casts a cloud over those full-time RVers who want to vote. If enacted into law, South Dakota state auditors would get some new orders. They would be tasked to “compare the address listed or described on each new voter registration application with county tax records to ensure that the address provided in the voter registration application is confirmed as a residence and not a commercial or industrial address, an undeveloped lot, or the address of property owned by a local government, state government, or the federal government.”

“Not a commercial or industrial address.” This would eliminate private mailbox addresses for full-time RVer-voters. Temporarily encamping in a publicly-owned campground would rule out using that as an address, too. And for those who might use the address of a relative living in South Dakota as their mail drop, that’s another way to possibly raise a “red flag.” “Each county auditor shall verify the accuracy of a voter registration application for an individual who lives at the same address of another registered individual with a similar name to ensure that the individual registration application does not represent multiple registrations by the same individual.”

Will they make it up for a vote?

Both of these bills have been sent to committees. Will they come out and make it to the legislative floor for a vote? That remains to be seen—they could simply die off before a vote. And for those full-time RVers who have no interest in being South Dakota voters, it’s all a moot point. These proposed laws would have no other effect on RVers. If you are concerned, and want to make your voice heard, you can contact the sponsors of these bills. Representative Karla Lems can be emailed at, or call her office at 605-773-3851. Senator Julie Frye-Mueller’s email address is, and her office phone is 605-773-3821.

We’re grateful to Mark Koep of for letting us know about these bills. Mark, who was a full-time RVer for many years, provides his own take on the matter on a YouTube video (above) just last Friday.

If you appreciate this type of article, typically only available to the RV community on, please consider supporting us by becoming a voluntary subscriber. You choose the amount. It all adds up and helps us continue our mission to educate RVers about matters critical to them.


Russ and Tiña De Maris
Russ and Tiña De Maris
Russ and Tiña went from childhood tent camping to RVing in the 1980s when the ground got too hard. They've been tutored in the ways of RVing (and RV repair) by a series of rigs, from truck campers, to a fifth-wheel, and several travel trailers. In addition to writing scores of articles on RVing topics, they've also taught college classes for folks new to RVing. They authored the book, RV Boondocking Basics.



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Carl K (@guest_247952)
3 months ago

Said for years if you dont live here you should not vote here. Not fair to those who do actually live here.

Dr. Mike (@guest_223040)
9 months ago


HB 1232 was passed on a roll call vote in the SD Legislature (Y: 11 N: 1 NV: 0 Abs: 1) [PASS]. An amendment did remove the term “campground” from the list of restricted places. I’m not sure exactly how to interpret this, but it may still allow RVers the ability to register and vote. I’m going to reach out to the SD Secretary of State and ask for clarification.

SB 124 was passed by the SD Senate (Y: 9 N: 0 NV: 0 Abs: 0) [PASS]. There was an amendment but it appears to still eliminate the ability for RVers with PMB addresses to vote in SD elections.

I assume these both go to the governor for signature now.

Given the Senate bill, I need to start looking for a new home state. This is unfortunate, because I had my heart set on a ranch in the Black Hills for final retirement. However, I’m not going to give up my ability to vote for the next 10 years….

More to follow.

Mindy (@guest_223076)
9 months ago
Reply to  Dr. Mike

Thanks for the update!

Dr. Mike (@guest_224713)
9 months ago
Reply to  Dr. Mike

Stop the press! I was wrong above — this was the committee vote (or at least the first one). Updated info from RV Travel on 25 Feb reads:

“Both House Bill 1232 and Senate Bill 124 died in committees before they could reach their respective floors for a vote. However, existing South Dakota law could still create legal problems for full-timers who claim the Mount Rushmore State as their legal home. We’re waiting for feedback from the state’s attorney general and will report back to you when we get word.”

Gunr (@guest_222609)
9 months ago

If the full timer RV loose the chance for residency, and vote is taken away what about the census? Will SD loose any seats in Congress?

BillReader (@guest_222621)
9 months ago
Reply to  Gunr

Not in DC because a state gets at least one representative and two senators, and that’s what SD already has. Theoretically, it could change district lines for state representatives in Pierre, but I’m hearing that these proposed law changes wouldn’t make a significant change to the districts (but I haven’t personally seen the proof of those findings).

BillReader (@guest_221718)
9 months ago

For those commenting here who are registered in South Dakota, are you also telling the elected SD legislators how you feel?

If so, I commend you for talking to the ones who make the laws. The SD legislators are hearing at least 6 bills on the matter, and session ends in a few weeks. Each passing day, more bills are being sent to the Governor for signature or are being killed. Things move very quickly!

Doug Haley (@guest_221717)
9 months ago

So as I read through the proposed changes before reading this post, I certainly got the feeling it was about voting more than anything else. Kudos if this is an effort to minimize voter fraud, and boooo if it’s about anything else. Regardless, I see this as a multi-faceted issue for SD, and really for any state but the is another discussion. My question here is does, “And for those full-time RVers who have no interest in being South Dakota voters, it’s all a moot point. These proposed laws would have no other effect on RVers.” meant that if I allow my registration to go to inactive status or if I cancel my registration, I can keep on truckin’ claiming SD as my domicile? Thoughts anyone?

Mardoc (@guest_221619)
9 months ago

As a fulltime RVer, I am required to have a residence in a state. There is no federal option to reside in “the United States”, so I must pick one. I don’t have a problem paying state taxes, but businesses that offer the services I need don’t form in states with high taxes. I have been a resident of SD for over ten years, and in that time, I’ve voted for every improvement to roads and schools that has come up, as well as paid registrations for trailers and vehicles. I have yet to call 911 from South Dakota, so I haven’t used any public services in that way, and haven’t used state resources other than DMV, so I think SD is coming out ahead on their investment. These bills suggest that the concern is more about the “way” we would vote, not fraud–what legislation should (or could) be introduced to to eliminate people from the voting rolls so they won’t vote the “wrong” way? Either I’m a resident or not–if I am, I get a vote. If not, I move along.

Susan Lundquist (@guest_221616)
9 months ago

It’s in large part because, for decades, RVers who vote have helped make it near impossible to pass bills that raise taxes for programs that benefit the people who actually live there: school bonds, landscape and lighting districts, public safety districts, road improvement bonds, etc.

Cancelproof (@guest_221617)
9 months ago

Yup. Just like 1 person on welfare gets the same voting power as 1 person that employs 100 people. 2 non-binary blue haired school teachers can offset 2 brain surgeon’s votes.

Pretty sure it’s not the RVers that are making life tough. Typically, those same FT RVers were not FT RVers 30 years ago when they too paid for the social safety net of the previous generation’s shortcomings.

freedomrolling (@guest_221598)
9 months ago

We’re already harassed in several ways for not having a “residence”: Closure of bank accounts, cancelling credit cards, not being permitted to purchase a firearm through a dealer… and now they want to remove the vote as well?!

Cordo (@guest_221517)
9 months ago

Things to think about.

First, let’s remember the old adage: follow the money. Who is pushing these bills and why? Yes, I know the article gives the names of the authors of the bills, but some constituent wants this.

Second, what is the motivation? Why has this become an issue all of a sudden? If this is a disguised attempt to force full-timers to buy a home or condo in SD, it is probably unconstitutional. If the law passes, the businesses of the people who host the mailboxes would be severely impacted if not destroyed.

Or, could there be a concern that people who do not in fact live in SD are voting in state elections and so influencing the course of the state. Maybe actual residents of the state are unhappy about that. This does not appear to have been a problem in the past. Possibly the recent cascade of people buying RVs and leaving their home state to escape high taxes and burdensome regulations has raised this issue in the SD public mind.

Bob (@guest_221482)
9 months ago

As a full timer ( not S. Dakota) I keep up with things in my home state. I do vote in Federal and state elections. I don’t vote on stuff like county Sheriff or local city councilman. State officials can determine the direction the state is going politically. Local school board members not so much. I have long maintained there needs to be a database or something that full timers can plug into. There are so many things just seem unfair. Why should I be paying a high road tax for a state I travel through maybe once per year. So many things that just need to be changed.

Vanessa (@guest_221428)
9 months ago

As someone who lives by a saying of my father “buy land God isn’t making any more” and owner of land in several states I would LOVE to be able to vote on local issues in all of those locations that affect my property. One vote in federal elections but a vote in each state, county, town, city I have a financial interest in.

GrumpyVet (@guest_221420)
9 months ago

Although I do not have “standing”, I personally have no issue with the proposed changes to the law. Basically says if you don’t have skin in the game, you shouldn’t vote. Although I can sympathize with those that are true SD residents that are full timers.

Last edited 9 months ago by GrumpyVet
SLR (@guest_221397)
9 months ago

I knew that eventually, states would start putting a halt to the practice. But I don’t see it as a voting issue – that’s a very minor point since rampant voter fraud is a myth concocted to make people mistrust elections. This is really about the fading right of people to live without being required to pay rent/mortgage, utilities and real estate property taxes. I expect someday in the not-so-distant future, it will be illegal to live on the road full-time without a physical domicile.

Cancelproof (@guest_221400)
9 months ago
Reply to  SLR

Rampant? What exactly is the acceptable number of illegal votes? Are 2 dead people voting acceptable but 200 are not?

Michael Thomas Lloyd (@guest_221494)
9 months ago
Reply to  SLR

Well said!

CeeCee (@guest_221395)
9 months ago

Sorry, I don’t see any injustice in not permitting people who don’t live in, or intend to live in, a state, voting rights. Granted we are not FT, but to call this unfair is simply wrong. SD has every right to change a policy that they have to come to see as a problem for the full time citizens of the state. It’s not the state of SD’s responsibility to provide a voting venue for non-residents.

Richard Chabrajez (@guest_221384)
9 months ago

Since (in most cases) the voter registration database is also used to compel jury duty, we have temporarily waived our right to vote in our state of domicile so we don’t have to compromise travel plans in order to comply with a jury summons. An added benefit – we also avoid all those pesky spam calls during voting season. For now, it’s a minor compromise to perpetuate the lifestyle we enjoy.

When we do settle down, we will be more educated, conscientious voters due to our extensive travels throughout our amazing country!

Ron Bunge (@guest_221393)
9 months ago

Courts routinely wave jury duty to full-timers in SD.

David Hagen (@guest_221381)
9 months ago

If you don’t physically spend time in the state, you should not be able to vote there.

MattD (@guest_221366)
9 months ago

Yes, we must eliminate the voter fraud occurring in our country, in which there is no doubt, but this is like killing a fly with a sledgehammer.

Cancelproof (@guest_221362)
9 months ago

Unfortunately, we have to trust each other when it comes to voting. The system is broken, clearly. Vote where you call home, home. Pick a state, vote once and vote in person. If your a fulltimer, find a way home to vote, don’t do it by mail otherwise your vote is sketchy 2 ways.

Bob M (@guest_221348)
9 months ago

As a retiree I understand why full time RVers would want SD as a place to save money on taxes. But for SD state and local elections I’m not sure they should have a right to vote. Now for all federal political offices they have a right to vote. I myself am so disgusted with our politicians and commander and divider in chief. I feel like I want to quit voting.

Lonewolf (@guest_221335)
9 months ago

As others have opined, I see nothing wrong with either of these bills. All these legislatures are trying to do is protect the legitimacy of SD’s voting rights. In the past several years’ ballot irregularities have become an issue in many states, especially with so-called mail-in ballots.

My first motorhome was registered and plated in SD as recommended by the Arizona dealer handling that process for me so I can understand why some would complain. However, I believe the true residents of SD and their rights trump those of travelers looking to maybe save a couple of bucks here and there.

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