PIERRE, S.D. (SDBA) — The requirement that a person must demonstrate that they live in a permanent dwelling before they can vote in South Dakota has been removed by a Senate committee this morning (Friday).
SB17, as amended, removes that requirement and a requirement that a voter maintain a residence 30 days before registering to vote.
The measure passed the Senate State Affairs Committee 7 to 0.
Proponents said the current law’s 30-day residence requirement and “permanent dwelling” provisions are unconstitutional.
Lobbyist Justin Smith, representing the South Dakota Association of Mail Forwarders, said the bill fixed those concerns.
“The requirement that the person registering to vote to have a permanent fixed habitation, dwelling, or establishment, especially coupled with a 30-day residency requirement, poses serious constitutional issues,” Smith, a lawyer testified. “I know that the way it has been interpreted and applied by one or more county auditors in South Dakota. (It) has certainly raised problems for our customers, some of whom are active-duty members of the military. (They) simply do not maintain a permanent fixed dwelling in the state of South Dakota while they’re on assignment nationally or internationally.
Smith said some people are homeless, and the current law would not allow them to register to vote.
However, an opponent, Brian Burge from Beresford, said residency should be defined the same for voting, hunting, fishing, and driver’s licenses.
Deputy Secretary of State Tom Deadrick (deed-rick) disagreed.
“Residency being defined the same throughout the code is that voting is a constitutional right,” Deadrick said. “Hunting is not. It’s a privilege.
Fishing is not. It’s a privilege. Having a driver’s license is a privilege.”
Deadrick said the state has made that distinction throughout its history.
The bill now goes to the Senate.