District 23 no longer has a Senator who lives in District 23. Senator Bryan Breitling has moved to Dell Rapids, in District 25. But in a fine display of Republican reality-manufacturing, Breitling thinks he still lives in District 23, so he can remain Senator for at least the rest of his current term:
State law requires only that a candidate for the Legislature must be a registered voter in the legislative district when the candidacy papers are filed. Republican Sen. Bryan Breitling met that requirement last year.
Since then, he’s accepted a different job and now lives in the Dell Rapids area. He told KELOLAND News he will continue to represent the Miller legislative district for the remainder of the current two-year term. He also said that he is undecided whether he will seek re-election next year from District 23, which includes Miller and covers all or parts of eight north-central counties.
Breitling said that he still considers himself a resident of Miller, where he and his wife started renting a home last October after selling their larger house there, and that his voter registration remains in Hand County [Bob Mercer, “Breitling Undecided About Seeking Re-Election,” KELO-TV, 2023.05.11].
The law does not specify any residency requirement for legislators other than they have lived in the state for at least two years before their election and that they live in their district when they file their nominating petition. But Mercer and others note that Senator Breitling has secured a tax break by declaring his new Dell Rapids home, not the rental in Miller, as his primary residence. So contrary to his declaration of remaining a District 23 resident at heart, Senator Breitling is telling the tax man that he is a District 25 resident.
The real problem for Breitling could come if he keeps voting in District 23, as he says he plans to do:
“I am registered to vote in District 23, and have been since 1996. I was elected to District 23 Senate and am finishing the term that I was elected to. This complies with all laws. It is pretty straight forward. My personal life has changed, as indicated by my nonpolitical employment position that has changed, but that doesn’t mean that I am still not complying with all the requirements of the seat I was elected to,” he continued [Mercer, 2023.05.11].
Gee, Senator Breitling, does that mean that, since I still have a place to sleep at Lake Herman, I can re-register to vote in Lake County and run for office in District 8?
Breitling may want to consult Senate Bill 139, which he voted for this Session. That bill (which takes effect July 1) says voting residence is at “the place in which a person is domiciled as shown by an actual fixed permanent dwelling… to which the person returns after a period of absence.” That sounds an awful lot like “primary residence”, and Breitling is saying that for tax purposes, his primary residence is Dell Rapids. Breitling may be able to cling to his Senate seat by a technicality, but clinging to his Hand County voter registration may be illegal.