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South Dakota bill removing 30-day residency requirements for voters passes committee

The Secretary of State requested the bill after learning federal law bars residence requirements in presidential elections.

Published: January 29, 2024 11:00pm

(The Center Square) -

(The Center Square) - The South Dakota House State Affairs Committee recommended passing a bill that would repeal residency stipulations for South Dakota voters enacted last year.

Senate Bill 17 would remove the 30-day residency requirements for those registering to vote.

The Senate passed the bill last week by a vote of 31-2. The Secretary of State requested the bill after learning federal law bars residence requirements in presidential elections.

"So at this time, the state statute is in conflict with federal law regarding how we register individuals," Sen. David Wheeler, R-Huron, told senators during the floor debate. "I still think there is value in having the conversation about how we ensure that these people who don't have much connection, the RV voters that people are concerned about, can vote in South Dakota, but it's not something I think we will be able to deal with effectively in this year. We don't need to be dealing with lawsuits in the middle of a presidential election year."

Proponents of the bill included Maxx Godsey, who is retired from the U.S. Marines but working a civilian job in Germany. He told the panel he is establishing his South Dakota residency by establishing an address through a mail-forwarding service. Godsey said he planned to make South Dakota his home again once his tenure was finished overseas, and he wanted to be able to vote absentee.

Jon Hansen, R-Dell Rapids, voted against the bill, along with Rep. Rocky Blare, R-Ideal. He said he was concerned that some people who have never lived in South Dakota but had a mailbox there could vote in the upcoming elections.

"Maybe there needs to be some kind of fix to our system, but I don't think this is it," Hansen said. "And I'm really concerned that we've heard testimony from individuals that literally have never lived in South Dakota and yet we're going to allow them to vote in our elections."

The bill passed the committee by a vote of 11-2 and now goes to the full House.

"The process we've got currently in place doesn't make any sense at all," said Chairman Will Mortenson, R-Fort Pierre. "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."