RV living voting is an important issue to Americans these days. With so many people wanting to contribute their voices to political issues in the United States, you must be registered to vote for your voices to be heard. Voting is a constitutional right that every American has, and exercising it would help in more ways than one. Besides, it can give you some perks, too. Here is everything you need to know on voting, registering to vote while living in your RV, and more.
Good News: Full-Time Residents Can Vote
Most people think that those who live in RVs full time are not allowed to vote, or at least ineligible to vote unless they stay at home in their respective states as normal residents of that state. Can full-time RV residents vote? Of course, they can. It is their constitutional right as American citizens. However, their journey might be harder compared to those who live in traditional homes.
The Journey Towards Voter Registration
For those who live full-time in RVs, they must have a domicile state. This is needed so that they will not go state-hopping and vote multiple times. Remember that it is not allowed to vote in elections more than once, and you can serve jail time and pay a huge fine if you get caught. Worse, it might revoke your voter registration and ban you from voting anymore.
If you do not know about it, voting more than once is recognized as a felony in 28 of the 50 states plus the District of Columbia. In other states, it is classified as a mere misdemeanor or an infraction. So, the consequences for voting twice vary from state to state, though this is not an excuse to do so. It can still appear in your criminal records, and it might affect your career and other aspects of life.
How to Choose a Domicile State
A domicile state serves as your base camp when you are done with your full-time RV or where you stay if you do not live in your RV for a long period. For example, if you stay most of the time in California, and you have a house there, you can have California as your domicile state since you stay there for longer periods when you are not living in your RV full time.
Your domicile state is also the state where you also do other government obligations such as filing taxes, applying for a driver’s license, registering your vehicles, and so much more. Always ask your state office for more information about domicile states and what they can do to you.
Steps on Establishing Your Domicile State in 2021
It can be confusing to many RV residents, especially those doing this for the first time. Many articles found online are either confusing to follow, not applicable in some states, or outdated. Thanks to our research efforts, we have found the steps to establish the domicile state that you can use for your voter registration.
Choose your domicile state.
You must take this very seriously as it can be difficult for you to change domicile states whenever you need it. Before choosing your domicile state, check what the state laws are about domicile states and what perks you can get from registering this state as your domicile state.
As mentioned above, your domicile state is also the state where you pay your taxes, register your vehicles, apply for driver’s licenses, and so on. Thus, you must choose your domicile state based on these circumstances.
Among RV residents, the most popular domicile states include the states of Florida, South Dakota, and Texas. These states are known to be the best ones for paying taxes since they have lower taxes than states like California and New York.
Get a physical address on your domicile state.
Now that you have decided on your domicile state, you must get a physical address on your domicile state. You have two options to do this, and both are easy options, too.
First, you can find a mail forwarding service in your domicile state. Still, you must remember that not every mail forwarding service gives you a physical address. It would be best if you check their options first before signing up to look for another mail forwarding service that you can use in the future.
The second option is asking your friends or family if you can use their residential address in the domicile state as your physical address. Even though you are close friends and family, you should still ask for permission so that they will not be surprised that mail for you from the government agencies is flooding their mailboxes. It is also common courtesy to do that first before signing their addresses as your physical address.
You can also check RV groups if they have mail forwarding services as part of the benefits for their members so that you can use their physical address on your domicile state without any hassles.
For example, Escapees RV Club has its own mail forwarding service that works for RVers who use addresses in South Dakota, Florida, and Texas. They also give you a physical address, so there is no need to worry about having no physical addresses anymore.
Now that you have a physical address in your domicile state, you must change the address stated on your IDs and vehicle registrations to your new state’s address. Your addresses must be updated so that you can have no worries come voting season.
Register to vote.
Remember that you cannot register to vote if your IDs and vehicle registrations are still under your old state. You can only proceed with the voter registration if you have the new address on your domicile state on your IDs and vehicle registrations. Voter registration depends on the state, so you can also ask your state government offices how voter registration happens in your domicile state.
Disclaimer for Mail Forwarding Services
Mail forwarding services are good options, but you must remember that there is a catch. There is a disadvantage to using a commercial mail forwarding service. The Patriot Act requires all financial institutions to keep a residential address on file for their customer accounts. The rules specifically prohibit mail forwarding services and PO Boxes.
If you change your address or open a new account with your mail forwarding address, you will certainly be asked for it.
Prepare a residential address, ideally within your state of residence. Failure to do so may result in accounts being restricted or suspended from operations. Even if you do not live there, you have the legal right to use a ‘next of kin’ address. Do not try to explain your situation to the institution – they’re just filling in the blanks – or it may raise red flags.
Voting While Living in Your RV
Let’s say you have a domicile state already, with a physical address, and you can transfer your IDs and vehicle registrations to your new state, and you are finally registered to vote. How are you going to vote?
You have two options on how to vote in your domicile state. First, you can park your RV in your domicile state and stay there during the election season so that you can vote in person in your domicile state. That is the common option that most people living in RVs usually choose.
However, suppose you need to be away from your domicile state during the election season because of work and other personal engagements. In that case, you must have the proper arrangements to get an absentee ballot.
We all know how absentee ballots fared during the last presidential elections, so mail-in voting is a popular option now, especially for those who cannot go to the polls on election day.
Mail-in voting is safe, constitutional, and also valid. There is no way someone can tamper your votes once you mail them to the post office via USPS. This is a convenient way for you to safely vote in your domicile state, knowing that there is no way the USPS can open your ballots or do something else about it.
You can apply online through the designated website of your domicile state. Print out the form, complete the details and send it to the clerk’s office according to specified dates. Once approved, you will receive your absentee ballot weeks before the actual election day. They do that so that your votes will be counted as soon as the election in the polls is closed on the day of the election.
You will be receiving your mail through your mail forwarding service or to your friends or family’s address in your domicile state.
What You Need to Remember in Absentee Voting
Even though absentee voting is an option that many RV residents can enjoy, you must remember that not all states have the same laws regarding absentee voting. What is okay in Wyoming might not be allowed in Mississippi, so always check with your state’s electoral office about the specifics in absentee balloting.
Each state has specific rules regarding absentee balloting and voting. Unfortunately, some states do not allow recreational travel as a valid reason for you to vote using absentee ballots.
Controversies in RV Living Voting
However, there were instances that RV voters faced controversies over their choices in domicile states for voting procedures.
In 2007, Cleveland County in Tennessee ruled that full-time RV residents would not cast their votes. This happened due to mail forwarding services allowing them to register to vote using physical addresses. It was ultimately dropped from the voter rolls over the past two years.
It also happened in the state of New Hampshire. However, RVers should never be kicked out of the voting booths if they do not have a physical home. After all, they are still Americans, and they still get to vote, according to one representative.
These instances happened a decade ago, so the laws in these states are already updated to allow absentee voting for RV residents in their domicile states. This should never affect your enthusiasm to cast your vote.
Let us look at how the RV voters changed the tides in the Senate race for South Dakota last 2004. South Dakota is very friendly towards RV voters, who are also disadvantaged in voting come the elections.
They are also usually strongly Republican for some reason. Hence, the Republicans in South Dakota saw that opportunity to unseat the incumbent Democrat Senator and bring the Republican seats up to one more than the Democrats in 2004. I do not have any political inclinations, but this shows how a party can benefit from the RV votes as they still count and turn the tables whenever they need to.
How States Reacted Towards RV Voters
As mentioned earlier, states have different rules towards RV voters and absentee votes. South Dakota is one of the states allowing RV voters to vote in the state even though they have never set foot there. Other generally positive and pleasant states towards RVers include Alaska, Florida, Nevada, New Hampshire, Tennessee, Texas, Washington, and Wyoming.
Some states have distinct rules regarding RV voters and when they can exercise their rights to vote. States such as Nevada allow them to only vote in the presidential elections, with the fears of the RV voters swaying the local votes like what happened in South Dakota.
Interestingly, RV votes do not carry much weight compared to other groups. Still, in states like South Dakota, where close races are common, these hundreds of votes can be instruments in turning the tables to the winning party or turn the votes against them.
Exercise Your Right to Vote — On Wheels
RV campers and residents are not barred from voting in the local and presidential races just because they do not have permanent physical homes as most people do. They can use a couple of options in choosing a domicile state for their voter registration and absentee mail voting procedures. Always weigh your options as your domicile state is used for electoral concerns and taxes, registration, and many others.
Before choosing a domicile state, consider if the state’s rules regarding absentee mail voting are strict or lenient enough to your liking because it will be hard for you if you have multiple addresses. Remember that voting more than once is illegal and even counted as a felony in half of the states in the country, so do not ever risk it.
Let your voice be heard because your vote still matters, especially in close races. Remember how Georgia did it last year and how Pennsylvania made everyone’s jaws drop in the whole United States because the absentee votes tipped the scales into the President’s favor.