Newly introduced legislation seeks to reduce the influence of nomadic recreational-vehicle owners on South Dakota elections.

State Sen. Craig Tieszen, R-Rapid City, last week introduced a bill that would essentially forbid the use of a mail-forwarding service as an address for voter registration.

“It’s intended to make sure that people that vote in our elections here have at least some connection to South Dakota,” Tieszen said in a recent Journal interview, “and to make sure those people who do not have a connection to South Dakota do not participate in our elections.”

The bill targets nomadic recreational-vehicle owners, known as RVers, and others who use mail-forwarding services such as Americas Mailbox near Rapid City, whose address is listed by nearly 3,500 registered voters. Those voters do not actually live at the address but pay the business to help them establish a postal address, forward their mail and sometimes assist with other things including driver licensing, vehicle registration and concealed-weapon permitting.

Americas Mailbox and other businesses like it, including firms in Emery and Sioux Falls on the eastern side of the state, ostensibly serve people who travel year-round in their recreational vehicles and others who live nomadic lifestyles without a fixed home. Tieszen alleged that many of the customers are merely using South Dakota for its lack of a state income tax and low fees for vehicle registration and other services.

The potential for such people to exert outside influence on South Dakota elections became an issue in the Jan. 5 Pennington County wheel tax referendum, when some observers assumed that Americas Mailbox customers would be highly motivated to vote against the imposition of up to $60 in new annual taxes on vehicles.

As it turned out, only 11 percent of the Americas Mailbox customers who are registered to vote cast a ballot, which was less than the countywide turnout of 15 percent. The proposed tax was rejected by such a wide margin that the Americas Mailbox votes made no difference in the outcome.

Still, in the Americas Way precinct, named for the street on which Americas Mailbox is and which has its boundaries drawn around the business, there were 380 "no" votes against just seven "yes" votes, which amounted to 98 percent opposition.

Pennington County's elections supervisor told the Journal in the days following the election that such precinct-level results were not obtainable, but the Journal has since learned that the results for the Americas Way precinct were specially counted by county staff. Confronted with that information this week, the elections supervisor said she misunderstood the Journal's original request for the information.

Tieszen said the wheel-tax election illustrated the potential for nomadic RVers or any group with a political agenda to mass-register in South Dakota and swing an election.

Before the wheel-tax election, Don Humes, co-owner of Americas Mailbox, defended the right of his customers to register to vote in Pennington County. He said they bring thousands of dollars in extra revenue to the county and the state through vehicle licensing and registration fees, and they deserve a say in ballot issues that affect them financially.

“I’m surprised any politician would tell any citizen of the United States that they shouldn’t be allowed to vote,” Humes said at the time.

Tieszen's Senate Bill 164 says no person may register to vote using a business location, campground or post-office box as a registration address. If people wishing to register to vote have no other residential address or valid physical description of the location of their address, the bill says, they may appeal to the county auditor.

The county auditor could approve the appeal if the following four criteria listed in the bill are met:

  • The sole basis for the person's presence at the location is not based on a business or a commercial use, such as a mail-forwarding service;
  • 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;
  • The person is not claiming residency of the state solely for taxation or insurance purposes with no intention of physically remaining or returning; and
  • The person maintains a physical domicile with long-term sleeping accommodations at the residence.

If the county auditor denies an appeal, a person could then appeal to the state Office of Hearing Examiners. If an administrative law judge in the office determines that the four criteria have not been met, the voter registration could still be approved if the judge determines that "circumstances indicate legitimate residence of the state."

“Prior long-term residence in the state shall be considered proof of intention to return to the state,” the bill language says in its last line.

The bill has been assigned to the Senate State Affairs Committee, of which Tieszen is a member.

Contact Seth Tupper at seth.tupper@rapidcityjournal.com

(22) comments

beauzeau

Lets purge the 200+ registered voters at walmart on LaCrosse street

craigrollins

I confess. My wife and I are two of those nomadic RVers whose physical mailing address consists of a pigeon hole at Amaericas Mailbox. Frankly speaking, every time Don or Barb Hume lobbied against the Wheel Tax, I cringed. I cringed because we enjoy being Full Time RVers but we do try to live our lifestyle beneath the radar, so to speak. Not because we're doing anything wrong, but because closed-midnded people like Craig Tieszen think we are.

Bills like the Wheel Tax don't pass because of so-called outside infulences. They don't pass because they have no merit. The few votes that were cast from addresses at Amaericas Mailbox and Hart's Ranch had zero effect on the outcome of the referendum. It was by and large the citizens that physically reside in Pennington County that voted it down and Craig Tieszen has dicided that he needs to blame it those of us who domicile at AMericas Mailbox and Hart Ranch. That was evident in the articles leading up to the referendum.

Like the article states, there are some 3,500 registered voters at Americas Mailbox. There are an additional 250 or so at Hart Ranch. There are an additional 5 more registered mail forwarders throughout the state of South Dakota that service both registered and unregistered voters. That translates to a few million dollars in taxes and fees that benefit the state government directly for what amounts to little more than a paper shuffle, and comes from taxpayers who use consume nearly nothing in state resources. I don't know about you, but that sounds like a win-win situation to me. If Senator Tieszen has his way, that will all go away. He'll put 6 viable SD businesses out of business thereby depriving the state of other incidental revenue. Should this bill pass the only thing the Senator will have accomplished will be the transfer of existing revenue to the states of Texas and Florida who also have Full time RV friendly laws.

Now, as to your comment about me and my fellow RVers not espousing true SD morals and values, Mr SDVIKINGRON, please explain to me how those differ from my American morals and values. I would truly like to know.

Cameofws32

State Sen. Craig Tieszen is not a Republican! Well maybe a RINO. Look at his positions. Less than 20% NRA approval and less than 20% right to life approval! He is a liberal in sheep's clothing!!
We are full time RV'ers. We have a right to vote. My wife and I have never missed a vote since we were 18 years old! The SCOTUS has said we have a right to vote. State Sen. Craig Tieszen does not have the ability to take that away from us because we have chosen a "Nomad" lifestyle. This has already been decided by the courts and Tieszen is not above the law! This liberal RINO better understand that he is getting discovered and is on his way out!
And on a political note, even thought it shouldn't matter, by far most (but not all) full timers that I meet are hard care constitutionalists conservative Republicans. Maybe that's what scares State Sen. Craig Tieszen. We believe in smaller government and lower taxes!!!

RedLeg1976

It's my guess most of you "full-time" RV'ers are nothing more than scammers. A SD address keeps you from paying a state income tax and allows you to just pay cheap registration fees. My bet is most of you do have a residence out of state. I don't have a problem with real snowbirders from SD Who usually have an apartment or house to come back to in the summer. I would also guess the "full-time" RV'ers are triple dipping in pensions, so they have plenty of money. If they can't prove they have a legal dwelling in SD, no licence, no vote-period.

B-Rock

Yeah! Homeless people don't deserve to vote!

Kelly1234

Interesting. You say you are supportive of the Supreme Court and their decisions. AND you support laws that have already been decided. That's great!

Pro tip. Roe v Wade has been decided. Thank you for supporting a woman's right to do what she wants with HER body. That is HER freedom. Thank you for supporting this!!!

rider9

Well since you want to spin this from voting rights to Roe v Wade, let's stir this pot. I think women have every right to do whatever they want to do to their body, UNTIL they create another life with its own rights (not YET legally recognized). That means you can have sex with whoever you wish, use contraception, but if you are foolish and irresponsible enough to create another being you are unable or unwilling to care for, you shouldn't be able to kill it for your own convenience. SCOTUS may or not be overturned, but we will continue to educate society of the reality of reproduction and the consequences of abortion. You can try as hard as Willy tried to define 'sexual relations' but ultimately abortion is premeditated murder and will judged accordingly, if not in this court, then the next.

Zombie dog

How can anyone argue with Vikings logic? Arlo? Seriously? Your people? Well, Vikings point is why should we allow non residents to vote in our state? Seems black and white, we shouldn't. And they should carry an in transit permit to be taxed in whatever state they are in when they arrive. Just like weigh stations. They register here and find one of the companies that can secure fake residency because of the states leniency. It's a loophole and needs to be fixed. Because it is so widespread in the state, the consideration for a wheel tax has come up so the state can capitalize on the taxes, which in turn will affect every single SD citizen. Crazy. And we have people that say leave them be? I say nobody votes in SD without the year residency. It works for several other agencies, why not here? Live here, vote here, pay taxes here. I can't believe this is even an argument.

SDVIKINGRON

Arlo,,,,, you miss the point. I am for diversity of opinion for all residents of South Dakota that hold a piece of physical property or are a residing member of a household that holds physical property in South Dakota....not a mailing address.

B-Rock

Do renters and homeless people not deserve voting rights?

Trackrig

As usual, a politician making noise over nothing and trying to pass more unneeded laws so that he can tell the people how he's protecting them.

MasterM

The voters sure as heck aren't voting here to influence the RNC/DNC elections. By the time the vote gets around to us, we'll be lucky if more that one candidate remains in each party. "Drop out and unite the party," the powers scream. It is disenfranchisement for the sake of steering an election.

sdnana

i wonder if the Republican's want to get this done before more Democrats start to register in SD that wouldn't be good for them, as for me I would welcome it.

pm2kar

Leave to a Republican to try and stymie the vote. These lousy hacks have kept the state dead last en everything for 40 years, and it looks like they intend to do it for 40 more.

Trackrig

This just happens to be a Republican, but put one of the other parties in office a they'll produce just as much garbage.

Freedome

If SD don't want there money some other state will take it, where else can we get tax money from trucks & campers without them even being on our roads. After being a full time RVer for eight years it may sound like a trouble free life. For one most mail box forwarding companies with not forward anything form S.S. So most RVers have an address where they can get mail like a relative. All those years traveling every time I seen a RV with SD plates I would ask where they are from not one time in all those years did anyone really come from here. They all just registered there trucks ect here because of the low fees in our state. I was paying out over $300.00 a year for mine so I sent in for SD and it cost me under $50.00, but I am from here & I did return here. Its free money so lets spend tax payers money to get rid of the free money so the state can say we need more money for road repairs since DMV will collect less money.

SDVIKINGRON

Three cheers for State Senator Craig Tieszen!!!
Since 2008, my wife and I have been traveling as a “snowbirds” in Texas and Arizona. As legitimate South Dakota residents, we have personally observed a number of vehicles with South Dakota license plates in Texas and Arizona during our winter travels. On past occasions we have asked many people who are displaying South Dakota plates, “Where are you from?” In most cases they have a Minnehaha county plate on their vehicle and state, “ I have never been to South Dakota.”
I have often wondered if these people are voting in South Dakota, and if so, how that might that be skewing the vote in South Dakota.
I talked to an individual here in Arizona who is from Illinois. She stated that she and her husband are full-time RV’ers and that they were South Dakota residents through an address in Box Elder, South Dakota.
My wife and I are from Pennington County so we inquired, “do you have a 2 on your plate as opposed to most fake residents that have a 1?” She said “I don’t know if it is 2 or what county it is, as we don’t actually live there.”
I asked “Do you vote in South Dakota and if you don’t mind me asking, how do you vote?” She responded, ”My husband votes democrat and I am an Independent because Republicans are corrupt.” I assume that since she stated they do not live in South Dakota, she and her husband are voting by absentee ballot.
These statements confirmed my worst fears. People from outside the state of South Dakota who may not espouse the morals and values of a true South Dakotan may actually change the political landscape. Their votes can directly change and impact the great state of South Dakota as we know it.
While the main goal of these South Dakota transient resident aliens is to avoid paying a state income tax, their political position is the greater threat to South Dakota.
I believe there are political groups and factions that are aware of this loophole in our South Dakota resident laws and could be placing operatives in our state as residents.
I believe these political groups are very capable of strategizing and using loopholes in the current resident laws to elect political parties of their choosing. These political groups could impact South Dakota on a local, state and national level. They might also through outside political influence enact legislation that would not be the choice of the real residents of South Dakota.

Arlo Blundt

well....Mr.SDVikingRon ....you write""People from outside the state of South Dakota who may not espouse the morals and values of a True South Dakotan may actually change the political landscape>"....please, what are those morals and values that all True South Dakotans share???? My people have been in South Dakota since before 1900, and even within the family there are differences in "morals and values"...how am I to know which of my relatives are "True South Dakotans"????...I'll take the others off my Christmas Card list.....thank you...Arlo

Born2fish

Some of you are talking like this is news. It;s been going on a long long time.

B-Rock

Did you sell your house to live a nomadic lifestyle? Are you homeless due to unfortunate circumstances? State Sen. Craig Tieszen thinks you do not deserve the constitutionally-guaranteed right to vote.

What's next Craig? Would you like to deny voting rights to welfare recipients, Native Americans living on sovereign land, or maybe single mothers? Your buddies in the House are working really hard to make this kind of discrimination legal.

rncpps

Sure Craig, but you will still take their registration fees won't you? Some of us actually know him for what he is and listen very little to his ideas because we have a real problem with his duplicity. Tieszen was a co-signer of a bill several years ago that proposed to remove the street licensing from our ATV's, citing they were a danger to the public, despite the fact that the group I was with that organized a movement against the bill produced evidence that only one, ONE, ATV and private vehicle accident occurred withing the previous 3 years. And that accident was the car's fault! How is this relevant to this article? It speaks to Tieszen's credibility, because once our group prevailed with an overwhelming opposing response I found out later that day that while Tieszen was in the process of trying to exclude ATV's from street licensing he was simultaneously co-sponsoring a bill that would allow golf carts on residential streets in cities that wanted to allow them! He represents specifically the duplicity in Pierre that is so prevalent today and it is lucky for his district electorate and the State that he is term limited out. In my limited dealings with him he never spoke to me but at me. He is wrong on this issue cited in this article just like he is wrong on almost every issue that he proposes. Much like my District 33 Representative he is not a Conservative Republican nor even a true Republican and should caucus with the Democrats, his political philosophy being far more in line with them. Being a retired police chief is a noble accomplishment, one that he should be proud of, but it does not necessarily make for a well thought out and effective legislator or public administrator, a fact that Rapid City will find out soon enough with Mayor Steve. The real reason he supports this bill is to make sure there are as few actual conservatives voting as possible because he believes that most of the full-time Rvers are conservatives that vote in opposition to what his vision is for the state.

Buck

Find something important to work on.

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