On Tuesday, Governor Kristi Noem signed Senate Bill 139, which makes it harder for new residents to exercise their right to vote in South Dakota. SB 139 may make participation in civic life a little harder for South Dakota’s tens of thousands of practically non-resident RV voters.
SB 139 changes the definition of residence for voting purposes in SDCL 12-1-4 from the current language:
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.
…to this new language:
For the purposes of this title, the term, residence, means the place in which a person is domiciled as shown by an actual fixed permanent dwelling, establishment, or any other abode to which the person returns after a period of absence.
That language could serve to disenfranchise RVers registered to vote at our mailbox-rental facilities, as America’s Mailbox in Box Elder and My Home Address, Inc. in Emery are not “actual fixed permanent dwellings, establishments, or abodes” where people may reside. SB 139 also strikes the nebulous “intent” from the definition and requires that voters actually return to the dwellings they declare as their residences.
SB 139 thus provides Secretary of State Monae Johnson justification to remove thousands for voters registered at a handful residency-mill addresses from the voter rolls. Johnson promised during her 2022 campaign to remove RV voters from the rolls. If Johnson wants to distinguish herself from Governor Noem by actually following through on her campaign promise, she will query the voter database for addresses at which more than 50 voters are registered, identify the places that are mere mail-forwarding services and not actual abodes, and strike those ersatz voters from the rolls the moment SB 139 ersatzifies them on July 1.
SB 139 also adds a 30-day waiting period to voter registration for new residents. Right now, under SDCL 12-4-1, new residents can register to vote on the very day they move to South Dakota. (New voters still have to register at least 15 days before an election to vote in that election, but that’s a separate statute.) SB 139 now makes newcomers maintain residence in South Dakota for at least 30 days before they can register to vote. SB 139 also changes the voter registration form to add “I have maintained residence in South Dakota for at least thirty days prior to submitting this registration form” (or similar words to that effect) to the statements to which a registering voter attests under penalty of perjury.
Even if Secretary Johnson doesn’t go on the warpath against RV voters, that 30-day waiting period may discourage new RVers from joining South Dakota’s voter rolls. Picture it: when SB 139 kicks in on July 1, new RVers coming to town to sign up for residency will read the voter registration form and see that they are committing perjury if they sign that form before they’ve spent 30 days in South Dakota. Sensible RVers won’t risk perjury; they’ll put that form in their pocket and wait 30 days to register, if they dare register at all—SB 139 says I gotta “maintain residence” here for at least 30 days, but the open road is calling, and I’m only staying here at the Spearfish KOA for one night.
Governor Noem included SB 139 in the bucket of 12 election bills she signed Tuesday (with Secretary Monae Johnson and her frightful cabal of election riggers watching), stating that SB 139 and the other election bills “will further strengthen our fantastic [election] system and provide accountability for the future.” But SB 139 will remove thousands of RVers from that fantastic system and deny them the opportunity to hold Noem, Johnson, and other South Dakota elected officials accountable at election time.
I have always believed in giving credit where credit is due and this change in South Dakota voter law is long overdue.
Disenfranchising voters is the name of this game.
A voter serves out of state (military, government, well-driller in Alaska, et al) and uses her/his parents address as his state residence. Parents die or move out of state. Does the law demand the state resident to return to South Dakota for 30 days to establish a new address?
The seven stooges in the photo would say so. It will be informative to learn how their law reduces federal matching funds when the RVers do not renew their South Dakota licenses, tags, and permits.
So will this new requirement disenfranchise homeless people in South Dakota. Homeless folks don’t have “an actual fixed permanent dwelling, establishment, or any other abode to which the person returns after a period of absence.” KELO reports that
John, in the cases you cite, the address given is an actual abode, not a bag in a building that mail is thrown into and occasionally forwarded to some other site. In the case of the parents dying, does the kid inherit the addressed property? Take on the lease of the apartment? Anything “automatic”? If not, as with all changes of address, a reregistration would be required. Changes of address, for voting purposes within the state are different to “establishing (or maintaining) residency” IN THE STATE as a whole to begin with.
bcb. It likely does disenfranchise a homeless person, or a person without a physical street address. If that is the case, see the loss in Federal court that ND suffered regarding a similar requirement in ND @ reservation residents.
Richard, I too believe this attempt to exclude voters will be declared unlawful by the courts. As for the homeless, this reminds me of the so-called poll taxes, and the former rules that only property owners were permitted to vote. I supposed the next voting exclusion will have to be fertile women.
Well, this Logan Manhart fellow knew he was going to get his picture taken with the Governor on that day and chose not to wear a tie. Tells me a lot about him. No respect for tradition and a certain self centered, ego driven personality that has no place in a government position.
I have always believed RV owners that register in SD would be older annd wealthier and therefore more likely to be Republicans. I haven’t seen the data to confirm my thesis but I’m sure it’s out there. Is she dumb enough to disenfranchise her supporters or am I wrong and are those zip codes that represent RV’ers more Democratic ?
There are assumptions made that the fulltime RVers are wealthy. While this may be true for some, there are many more who are nomads, following seasonal or temporary jobs. Watch the movie Nomadland, which was partly filmed around Wall and Badlands National Park. It was nominated for 6 Oscars, and won three, including Best Picture, Best Actress (Frances McDormand), and Best Directing, in 2021.
The people depicted in the movie are migrant workers, but not from south of the border. They are US citizens, who work seasonal, temporary jobs in various tourist destinations. They live in run down RVs, or vans, not big fancy rigs. They are called WorkCampers. Their vehicle is their home. There are soooo many of them. They can be found in Wall, in the summer, and in Deadwood, Keystone, Hill City. All their worldly possessions are in their vehicles, unless they can afford to keep up on the payment on their ministorage unit, with the hope that they may, someday, have a building in which to place them again.
This population deserves the right to vote, just like anyone else. They are unseen by many, they clean toilets and wash dishes and do hotel laundry. But they are real.
If the Fulltime RVers that are currently Registered Voters in South Dakota (but at a PMB address) are removed from the voter rolls, does that prevent them from voting in National Elections as well?
Hayley, yes, if Secretary Johnson follows SB 139 when it is enacted on July 1 and purges the rolls of RV voters, then those voters would be unable to vote in any election until they either live in South Dakota for 30 days and re-register or find another state that will recognize their itinerant residency and allow them to register. You can’t vote if you’re not registered.
That’s frustrating. I get the State not wanting county/local elections skewed by RV Voters. But we pay vehicle registrations, we pay our Excise taxes to the County/State. Why can’t we at least vote in National Elections.