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.