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Sen. Monroe: Let Out-of-Towners Vote in City Elections

Senator Craig Tieszen (R-34/Rapid City) wants to make it harder for non-residents to vote in local elections. Senator Jeff Monroe (R-24/Pierre) wants to make it easier for folks who don’t live in town to vote in town elections.

State law gives municipalities control over zoning in areas within three miles of city limits. Around Fort Pierre, that extra-territorial zoning authority is apparently one mile (I’m still trying to find the statute that reduces Fort Pierre’s reach). Cities can thus make zoning decisions for people who cannot vote in those cities’ elections.

Local District 24 State Senator Jeff Monroe is bring forth a bill this year that would give those residents an opportunity to vote in city elections…

Some South Dakota cities have jurisdictions of up to three miles outside of city limits. Whatever the amount of miles, this bill would allow those residents to vote in city elections says Monroe [Kevin Larsen, “Bill Would Allow Those In The ‘One Mile Zone’ An Opportunity To Vote,” KCCR Radio, 2016.01.03].

Monroe’s proposal (not yet in the Legislative hopper, but let’s watch for it!) touches on an issue of representation that I’ve long wondered about. What qualifies a citizen to vote in a given jurisdiction’s election? What constitutes being, as Monroe says, “under the jurisdiction of the city council”? If a resident of the Missouri bluffs just outside of Fort Pierre qualifies to vote for Fort Pierre City Council by dint of being subject to Fort Pierre’s extra-territorial zoning authority, then what about a Pierre resident owns a business in Fort Pierre? What about the legislators who cross the river at 1 a.m. Central to buy drinks and pay Fort Pierre sales tax for another hour in the Mountain Time Zone?

And if Senator Monroe is willing to let non-residents vote in city council elections, will he logically conclude that he must also let non-residents run for city council?

Be careful, Senator Monroe—your proposal may not be as straightforward as you think.


  1. Owen 2016-01-04 13:04

    Don’t those rural people have county commissioners?

  2. Joe 2016-01-04 15:44

    IDK, I’ve always wondered if cities should have a rural district like schools, because if I live outside of Menno but I do all of my business in Menno, my kids go to school in Menno, I pay taxes for the school, and the fire department. Why shouldn’t I get some say in the city elections.

    At the same time, I chose to live out in the country and I still get my county resources so should it matter? This is honestly one of those where I see both sides of the issues and understand both.

  3. Mark Remily 2016-01-04 19:10

    I get this question all the time. As a member of the Aberdeen city council, people quite frequently ask why they can’t vote in the city elections if they live with-in the three mile jurisdiction? The reason is that they don’t pay the same higher tax rate and city fees as city residents. The other question I get (and I think more importantly) is people living out of the city limits who own business with-in the city limits and pay equal taxes and fees and still can’t vote in municipal elections. I would agree with business owners who live out of city limits having the right to vote in municipal elections where there business is located.

  4. Richard Schriever 2016-01-05 00:35

    Mark – would those non-resident business/property owners then be able to vote in MULTIPLE jurisdictions? Would you restrict the TYPES of elections they could vote in? (Local issues only – no state, or federal elections). To me this is = to going back to the colonial days when property owners were they only folks with a vote. It would be like saying it is MONEY that controls politics – OLIGARCHY, not democracy. One dollar = one vote, not one man = one vote.

    As to the extra-territorial jurisdiction – it is not ZONING that municipalities have authority over – it is PLATTING only. The reason behind this “nefarious governmental intrusion” has to do with assuring matching-up of streets and utilities for future expansion consideration. The statute also allows municipalities to determine for themselves how far outside the city limits such authority is needed with 3 miles set as the MAXIMUM. Cities can choose any distance up to three miles. Those that foresee greater – sooner growth will want a larger area of control, while those that see little to no growth MAY opt not to exercise any control at all.

  5. Mark Remily 2016-01-05 09:47

    The business owners with in the city limits that pay 2% sometimes 3% sales tax to city government. Aberdeen just had a public vote to spend 1 penny sales tax revenue to build a new public library. There were many business owners who expressed a desire to vote in that referred election, and could not. What is right and what’s wrong with that? I welcome your opinion.

  6. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-01-05 14:45

    One dollar, one vote—Richard hits my concern on the head. I, too, can see the logic of letting all stakeholders participate in decision-making. Business and property owners are clearly stakeholders. But could this thinking get us into a situation where we say business owners’ votes will be weighted according to whether they pay 2% or 3%, as well as to the total amount they pay? Do we start saying that the owner of a $400K house gets to vote twice, while the owner of a $200K house gets to vote once? Do we say that Al Novstrup, who apparently spends a lot of his time at his business locations out of town, only gets to cast half the vote in city elections that I do, given that I’m in town all the time?

  7. Richard Schriever 2016-01-05 15:20

    Mark – Businesses don’t PAY sales taxes – they COLLECT IT – from consumers. But that aside, according to your “taxpayers” logic, maybe anyone who shops in Aberdeen (and pays the city sales tax) should have a vote there too???

  8. Richard Schriever 2016-01-05 15:25

    Come-to-think-of-it, won’t all of those foreign national EB-% stakeholders in Aberdabber be “paying property taxes” on what their investment bought and aid for?? Should they get to vote on your city’s issues – from CHINA etc.?

  9. Richard Schriever 2016-01-05 15:26

    One’ rights are not really for sale in Aberdeen – are they?

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