The House State Affairs Committee in South Dakota has stirred controversy by eliminating the state's requirement that individuals must live in a "permanent dwelling" to be eligible to vote. The move, prompted by Senate approval of SB17 in a 31-2 vote, aimed to discard the 30-day residency requirement for voter registration, a rule particularly irksome for those living in recreational vehicles.
Federal law already prohibits residency requirements in presidential elections, leading the secretary of state to advocate for removing the state's requirement. Republican state Sen. David Wheeler supported the legislation, arguing that the original law was as unconstitutional as wearing socks with sandals.
South Dakota‘s requirement that a person must live in a “permanent dwelling” to be eligible to vote in the state has been revoked by the House State Affairs Committee. https://t.co/FqUv0vtVMP
— Badlands Media (@BadlandsMedia_) January 30, 2024
Under the previous South Dakota voting laws, individuals had to register to vote 15 days before an election, with the 30-day requirement obliging voters to affirm, under penalty of perjury, that they had resided in the state for at least 30 days during the election year. This sparked frustration and eye-rolls from RV owners.
A retired U.S. Marine working in Germany added an intriguing twist, announcing plans to establish residency in South Dakota through a mail-forwarding service and cast an absentee ballot before returning to the state. However, Republican state Reps. Jon Hansen and Rocky Blare opposed the bill, expressing concerns that it might invite non-residents to interfere in South Dakota's elections.
Committee Chairman Will Mortenson acknowledged the complexity of the current voting law, describing it as "clear as mud." He emphasized the urgency to address the situation, noting the risk of volatility in election administration. Mortenson stated, "The process we’ve got currently in place doesn’t make any sense at all, but it’s the middle of an election year, and we have an untenable situation heading into it. We risk volatility in the administration of our elections that I think is also not tenable to me."
The ongoing debate prompts questions about whether South Dakota will find a suitable voter registration formula or continue revisiting the issue in the future. Only time will reveal the state's electoral fate.