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Buffalo Chip Voters Claim Empty Land as Residence; Sturgis to Press RV Vote Issue?

“Residents” of the Buffalo Chip Campground get to vote Thursday at the campground business office on whether to turn the business into a legal municipality. Of course, since almost none of the campground’s “residents” are at Buffalo Chip, almost all of the votes are coming in absentee. In a report on Sturgis’s efforts to stop this vote, Deb Holland documents the extent of election fraud taking place:

A list of 32 people who already have cast their ballots for Thursday’s election through absentee voting shows that all report an address of 20603 132nd Ave., along with a lot number.

When entered into the Mapquest website, that location comes up in a field used for camping on the Buffalo Chip grounds.

“We believe no residential structures or residencies that meet the requirements (of state law) as a place of habitation exist at the address of 20603 132nd Ave., Sturgis, South Dakota,” [Sturgis city manage Daniel] Ainslie said [Deb Holland, “Sturgis’ Try at Stopping Buffalo Chip Incorporation Election Rebuffed Again,” Rapid City Journal, 2015.05.03].

Next week, at least 32 voters will ask Meade County to count as legitimate ballots cast by people all claiming the same empty lot as their permanent residence.

To see if we have before us 32 genuine cases of voter fraud, let us review South Dakota’s statute defining “voting residence“:

SDCL 12-1-4.   Criteria for determining voting residence. For the purposes of this title, the term, residence, means the place in which a person has fixed his or her habitation and to which the person, whenever absent, intends to return.

A person who has left home and gone into another state or territory or county of this state for a temporary purpose only has not changed his or her residence.

A person is considered to have gained a residence in any county or municipality of this state in which the person actually lives, if the person has no present intention of leaving.

If a person moves to another state, or to any of the other territories, with the intention of making it his or her permanent home, the person thereby loses residence in this state.

One cannot be said to have “fixed his or her habitation” at 20603 132nd Ave. if one has not erected a fixed habitat at 20603 132nd Ave.

If the “residents” of 20603 132nd Ave. reside on that tract in strictly temporary and portable habitats, they clearly have an intention of leaving.

The absence of fixed, permanent habitations on the address given by 32 voters should give election judges Nyla Griffith, Greg Smith, and Carol Woodruff grounds for throwing out those fraudulent ballots. However, SDCL 12-18-10 appears to say that election judges can only reject ballots on the basis of identity, felony, or mental incompetence.

Overturning these fraudulent ballots may thus require an intervention by Counselor Schoenbeck. Yes, Lee Schoenbeck, District 5 Representative, who was ready to refuse to seat Burt Elliott if he had won the District 3 House election on the basis of the fact the Elliott claimed a basement apartment in Aberdeen as his permanent residence. Elliott at least claimed a spot where he had a place to hang his hat. Right now, these purported Buffalo Chip residents would have to throw their hats on the dry, dry ground. See also Heinemeyer v. Heartland, in which the South Dakota Supreme Court rejected Jeff Heinemeyer’s contention that the apartment he shared in town counted as a permanent residence when he spent most of his time at his house at Lake Madison. If apartment renters Elliott and Heinemeyer can’t pass muster as residents, how can RVers with no stake in South Dakota but a mailbox and a bare lot in a pasture?

The Buffalo Chip Campground appears to be pushing its municipal incorporation on blatantly fraudulent voter registration. The Buffalo Chip vote could provoke the City of Sturgis to finally press the issue of the validity of thousands of RVers’ voter registration in South Dakota.


  1. owen 2015-05-03 09:50

    I really have a hard time with RVer’s. At least the RVers in Sturgis list a address and a lot number. A company that is in a town close to ours and is in our county provides a P.O. Box number so the RVers can establish residency.
    Our county tried to pass a wheel tax to repair bridges and maintain roads but of course these people, even though they don’t live here and have nothing to do with our county, helped vote it down because they are greedy people.
    Being part of a community is more then just have a permanent residence. Being involved in the community is important and even if they aren’t involved by living IN the town they buy food, gas and other things that help the community.
    Except for paying a license fee these RVers offer NOTHING to the community.

  2. Lynn 2015-05-03 09:59


    Would you say these RVr’s are parasites in a way? They vote in our state and register here but are not real citizens. They escape paying taxes in their home state. They make no attempt contribute to the local community. It just seems warped. Another future ballot initiative?

  3. Lee SCHOENBECK 2015-05-03 10:01

    Cory, just to be clear, Bert had a real home – just not one in the district he was running in – that’s pretty easy case of voter fraud.

    I don’t like the RV deal, I’ve said that before, but your article and comments raise an interesting question.

    Where do you stand on homeless people voting? Sounds like you are against it???

  4. owen 2015-05-03 10:13

    parasite is a good word Lynn. I bet these people whine bloody murder about SNAP and welfare.

    “Where do you stand on homeless people voting? Sounds like you are against it???”
    That’s a bad comparison Lee. Homeless people are just trying to survive. Rvers are just greedy people who don’t want to pay there fair share. Besides what address could homeless people give so they could vote?

  5. Lynn 2015-05-03 10:24

    These RVr’s have the financial means but it’s almost is if they “made it”, found a loophole and have now pulled the ladder up and let the shared investment of taxes and being a citizen with it’s responsibilities fall on everyone else. Roads, bridges, law enforcement, fire, education and other services are for “chumps” to pay and not them. They unfairly influence elections and we South Dakotans are paying for them to be free loading off of us. The negatives far outweigh the positives of this policy.

  6. mike from iowa 2015-05-03 10:25

    If RVers have to buy a license for their vehicle and that allows them to vote,isn’t that a poll tax and shouldn’t it be abolished and shouldn’t they be allowed to vote for free???

  7. rwb 2015-05-03 10:36

    Cory, your assertion of blatant fraud confounds the situation a bit. Has there been any municipal process in South Dakota over the last ten years that has been under more scrutiny at the local and state level than this? So are you saying the Butte County Commission and our court system are supporting a fraudulent action?

  8. larry kurtz 2015-05-03 10:42

    Republicans: I’m not homeless. Homeless: I’m not Republican.

  9. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-05-03 10:56

    Burt had a real home; shall we review the records and find how many of those Buffalo Chip pasture “residents” have some bricks and sticks elsewhere?

    I stand with Owen on homeless voting: folks on the street or in a shelter don’t have a home, which changes our calculus here. Every citizen should be able to vote. Citizens without a fixed residence should still be able to participate in elections. However, SDCL 12-1-4 uses the word “fixed,” which means if I’m going to court on behalf of Sturgis, I argue that even if some of those 32 Buffalo Chip absentee voters are pure RVers with no house, they cannot claim to have “fixed” their habitation at Buffalo Chip. (Of course, if I got o court on behalf of Buffalo Chip, I argue SDCL 12-1-4 unconstitutionally disenfranchises BC “residents”.)

    Lee, how about we thread the homeless needle this way: a homeless dude may not have a roof under which to hang his hat, but he may live in a certain area. If a homeless dude can tell the auditor, “Hey, I don’t have a house or an apartment, but I live in Sioux Falls,” he should be able to vote in Sioux Falls elections. if he can establish that he lives in a certain legislative district (that’s tricky, since you guys make crazy boundaries generally detached from real neighborhoods), he can vote in legislative contests. If our homeless dude wanders more but still stays within South Dakota most of the time, we let him vote for Governor, U.S. Senate, and U.S. House. And if he’s a real wanderer, like the guy I met on Highway 34 eight summers ago, crossing state lines, drifting wherever work will take him, we say, “You can vote for President, but we’re going to need to see some sign that you’re sticking around before we let you vote in our elections.”

    SDCL 9-14-2 requires me to habitate here in Aberdeen at least 90 days preceding the election to run for city council. We require foreign immigrants to live here for five years before they can naturalize and vote in anything. Current law and Heinemeyer appear to be sufficient to refute any claim to residency made by the Buffalo Chip voters, but perhaps we can clarify the situation by establishing an amount of time that folks have to live in a jurisdiction before they can vote in that jurisdiction’s elections, just like the candidate residency requirement.

    We can even establish different standards for establishing residency and maintaining residency. Lee has residency in Codington County right now. Now that their youngest is off to university, Lee and Donna decide they want to roam the country so Lee can play every golf course in the Midwest and write a book. Given Lee’s long-term residency here in South Dakota, we allow him to maintain that residency for voting purposes. He can cast his vote for Jeb Bush here next year, but if he wants to vote for Kristi Noem, John Thune, Ried Holien, or Elmer Brinkman, he has to maintain a certain legally definable stake in the community (nights sleeping at Lake Kampeska? property?).

    The universal principle should be that you can vote in the community where you live. If you choose to live itinerantly (or are forced to by economic circumstances), you can still vote in the broader community you inhabit (nation, state… city?) but you have to really establish residency (i.e., stay there X number of days a year) to vote. You cannot vote in more than one place. And you certainly cannot create a governing jurisdiction in South Dakota where you can collect sales tax by colonizing a pasture where you park your RV once a year for a party.

  10. Roger Cornelius 2015-05-03 13:12

    Over the years I have worked with many street people and I think that many people are misinformed about them.
    There are the stereotypical homeless, the alcoholics, drug users, etc. that are likely never to have a home. Fortunately in Rapid City many of these people that use the revolving door at the mission also use the mission address as their own. The Cornerstone Rescue Mission gladly holds mail for residents, many are able to get a library card using the mission address.

    There are also the transient homeless and the temporary homeless, what I have seen in these cases is that they will use a relative or friends address as their own permanent residence.

    Many of the permanent homeless that maybe living on a small fixed income will actually have a post office box.

    Unfortunately so many of the homeless don’t even consider voting, they are too involved with surviving daily life, things like finding a meal or shelter for the night.

  11. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-05-03 13:30

    rwb, I contend that voters who do not really live at 20603 132nd Avenue are claiming to live at 20603 132nd Avenue and using that false claim to create a municipality with taxing and lawmaking authority. That sounds like a fraudulent action to me. I do not assert that the court system is supporting fraudulent action; I will accept the notion that the court is acting on the complaints brought before it in accordance with existing law. Is the Meade County Commission supporting fraudulent action? Good question; to answer, I’d need to know more about the county’s authority to reject petitions for incorporation of municipalities.

  12. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-05-03 13:33

    Roger, thanks for that reminder that when we are talking about folks poor enough to be homeless, we’re talking about folks who don’t have the luxury of debating the finer points of South Dakota voter registration law on a pleasant Sunday afternoon, let alone the spare time or energy to vote. Such is the case for many lower-income folks with homes, especially if they are trying to support a family.

    I suspect such difficult life circumstances are far removed from the current living conditions of the Buffalo Chip voters in question here.

  13. John 2015-05-03 15:03

    Yawn, much ado about little. By most of the constipated definitions and interpretations of the statute in these comments, a serving federal officer would not be able to vote in this state. Like most, I used my home-of-record as my parents address, though it was unthinkable that I would actually return to live in that house. Later my son practiced similarly using my SD addresses. Recall George H W Bush, the wiser, had an address for years that was a Houston hotel room. It’s unlikely one is able to craft different definitions and interpretations for different classes of folks. There are fundamental constitutional freedoms at stake: freedom to travel, to associate, to vote, etc. Huff and puff to your hearts’ content but you won’t change the constitutional protections or court precedents. If you don’t like it (the RVers taking advantage of SD registration) then advocate that your tax-raising, tax-loving legislature annually octuple the RV registration tax . . . . something the tax-happy legislature should be delighted to so do. On the other hand, Sturgis is reaping what it sowed for years, and the town’s emerging progressives are unable to make right all the errs of the present or past.

  14. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-05-03 15:13

    Did you ever try to incorporate a town in the place you didn’t live, John?

  15. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-05-03 15:17

    Freedom to travel, freedom to associate, freedom to vote… all important freedoms defending by legal criteria into which the nomadic life does not neatly fit.

    But John, please elaborate on the point you make about federal officers. How much do they move around? How infrequently are they at their home base? How does their situation differ from that of soldiers, whose far-flung situation our laws are able to accommodate simply enough?

  16. Nick Nemec 2015-05-03 15:54

    During my time in the Marine Corps very few were registered to vote at the place we were stationed. I was permanently stationed in Virginia and North Carolina but was temporarily stationed in California, Oklahoma, a different base in Virginia and Panama. The entire time I was registered to vote in South Dakota using my parent’s address. I wasn’t a lifer, but I knew one master sergeant with nearly 30 years of service who used his parent’s address in Rapid City and major who used his wife’s parents lake house in NE SD as an address. In the case of the major he avoided state income tax in his home state by having a SD address. I’m sure all of the RVers who have SD box numbers as addresses are doing it for tax avoidance reasons. Not paying home state income tax in exchange for very minor RV license fees is a no brainer for these folks.

  17. Lynn 2015-05-03 16:25

    If you spend any time at RV forums for those that live full time in their RVs the two states they really push for registration because it is so cheap are Texas and South Dakota.

    I can understand those in the military that were originally from South Dakota. That is pretty easy. College students. It’s the RVers I have a problem with especially when they influence elections and do not reside here to experience the consequences locally from their votes. What can be done? What are the options to fix this?

  18. owen 2015-05-03 16:49

    I don’t think anybody is trying to stop people from traveling, associating or even voting John. What I was saying is these people are taking advantage of South Dakota’s tax system and they influence what happens in a particular area, like our county. Even though they don’t live here or give back to the communities that they have a P.O. Box # they have an effect as to what happens here. Like I said above they helped vote down a wheel tax to fix roads and bridges that I’ll travel on but they won’t.
    I don’t know what the answer. Maybe, as you suggested, be tax the hell out of them if possible. Maybe having regulations that would discourage them from setting up shop here in South Dakota.

    Morally I don’t feel its right.

  19. John 2015-05-03 18:58

    Thanks, Nick – you nailed it. I was a lifer; my son, thank god, not so much. My sister, another federal officer, hasn’t lived in SD since about 1989 remains is a “SD resident” – for voting, driver license, kids tuition, state income tax, etc.; and yes, she too could as well claim citizenship of Buffalo Chip, SD.

  20. grudznick 2015-05-03 20:25

    This Mr. Ron Woodruff fellow should end up in a jail cell right next to pretty young Dr. Boz.

  21. Richard Schriever 2015-05-03 20:27

    I feel the solution to the RV quandary is somewhat like Corey suggested above. If you live (reside – have a physical domicile, a spot on the ground, a bed you are asleep on; not simply a PO box) in a locale in the state for more than 50.5% of the year, you are eligible to vote in all state and local elections. Less than that (50.4%) you can vote only in state-wide and national elections.

  22. Les 2015-05-03 21:45

    “”Carol Woodruff grounds for throwing out those fraudulent ballots.””” I’m guessing Carol will make the right decisions.

  23. Bob Newland 2015-05-03 22:20

    Given the issue here, those are some mighty interesting election judges.

  24. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-05-03 23:50

    Owen, it occurs to me that the tax-dodging (excuse me: tax-minimizing) question and the voting question could be separate. The rules I suggest above deal strictly with voting. They would not stop the state from allowing RVers to register their vehicles and thus pay license and wheel tax here. RVers would pay tax but miss out on voting, just like the tourists who pay sales tax on meals at Al’s Oasis.

  25. PlanningStudent 2015-05-04 11:20

    The very purpose of city government is to address the issues that arise when people live too close together (or at least closer together than they do in a rural setting) therefore the eligibility requirements for voting in a city election should be tighter and based on actually laying your head down to sleep in a building, rented or owned, in that town.

    That being said, the Buffalo Chip only has people living too close together a few weeks out of the year, and shouldn’t be seeking the powers of a municipality and shouldn’t be allowed them.

  26. bearcreekbat 2015-05-04 15:13

    Ah, where do the homeless live? If being charged with a crime, such as failure to register a change in residences, it apparently does not matter that a homeless person does not intend to change his residence. It is sufficient if he travels to another place in SD, stays with a friend for a few days, and then sleeps for a time in an abandoned building. According to the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals such behavior constitutes a change in residence (or possibly two changes in residence), regardless of the traveler’s intent, for the purpose of criminal laws requiring someone to notify the state whenever they change residences, and justifies a 46 month prison sentence.

  27. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-05-04 22:04

    PlanningStudent, could this municipality push backfire on Buffalo Chip? What happens if campers get wise, all run for office, take over city government, and impose rules the campground owners don’t like? Couldn’t some sharp organizers move in and nationalize (municipalize?) the campground?

  28. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-05-04 22:07

    BCB, does South Dakota have a law requiring us to notify the state when we move?

    While circulating petitions today, I met a guy from Iowa who is now traveling with his girlfriend. They are not rich retirees. She works as a temporary nurse, working in different hospitals around the country, never for more than a year at a time. The boyfriend comes along and tries to find whatever jobs he can… which is a pain in any town when you can only commit for a few months and is even more of a pain if his girlfriend lands in a town with a rotten economy (and they’ve had a couple of those). He’s hoping to maybe get a job with some national chain business that can make a spot for him to work wherever his girlfriend may end up. The guy is still registered to vote back in Iowa, but what local community is he a part of? What decisions should he get to take part in?

  29. Les 2015-05-04 22:33

    I imagine the county commission, city council and all associated families and others associated with the above fiasco, can move in to Buffalo Chip, SD and vote to subvert Rod Woodrufff. Sounds like you’re sharper than the city legal staff, Cory. I’d demand that if I was a resident.

    Kind of like Facebook; who has the most friends? I can’t imagine why Hard Copy hasn’t been to Meade Co for a real time adventure, small difference from our astrolological legislature fame or GEOD on Jimmy Fallon.

  30. bearcreekbat 2015-05-05 01:56

    Cory, no, there is no general notification requirement when we move. The case I cited deals with folks convicted of various sex offenses. Both federal and state law requires these folks to notify the state if they change residences, including homeless people who have to find different places to sleep to survive.

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