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.
WATCH VIDEO BELOW FOR FULL EXPLANATION OF THE PROPOSED LEGISLATION.
“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 Karla.Lems@sdlegislature.gov, or call her office at 605-773-3851. Senator Julie Frye-Mueller’s email address is Julie.FryeMueller@sdlegislature.gov, and her office phone is 605-773-3821.
We’re grateful to Mark Koep of campgroundviews.com 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.
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