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Senate Bill 1111: Using a PO Box or Commercial Address for Voter Registration


buckeyefan4
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My wife and I have been members of Escapees and have been full-timers since 2017.  We have been very pleased with the Mail Forwarding Service, and have used our PMB to acquire Texas driver's licenses, register our vehicles, and register to vote.  We typically spend 2-3 months per year in the Kerrville area getting annual check-ups and getting the rig serviced.  We don't own any property or lease any lots in Texas or any other state.

All seemed well, but I noted--and this thread is in no way meant to be political--that Senate Bill 1111 went into effect on 9/1/21.  SB 1111 in essence bans Texas voters from registering to vote using a post office box as their address.  I realize our PMB is not a PO Box, but the law also states "A person may not establish a residence at any place the person has not inhabited."  Obviously, we can't inhabit a PMB.  The bill empowers voter registrars to send a confirmation notice letter to a registered voter requiring them to confirm their address. If a completed confirmation notice is not received within 30 days, that voter may become unregistered and be unable to vote.

To confirm the address of their current residence the voter must sign a sworn statement that their address is not a commercial location. They would also have to provide the same information required for one to register to vote, including some form of identification. To add to my confusion, you can show a driver's license as a valid form of ID, but that contains the PMB address.

Is it just me worrying, or are those of us using the PMB to register to vote in danger of being taken off of the voter roles?

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I'm anxious to hear what  the legal folks have to say.  I remember way back when a local group in Polk county wanted to disinfranchise escapees and another group stood with us. Now it appears the second group wants to disenfranchise folks.  Ain't life funny.

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bigjim, we are also watching this very closely.  Obviously, this could have a big impact on many people in the Club.  My wife and I have a combined 25 years of military service along with three combat deployments.  We are not going to give up the right to vote after defending that right for others.  We're beginning to make plans and exploring options if we get disenfranchised in Texas.

Edited by buckeyefan4
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On 9/9/2021 at 1:48 PM, bigjim said:

  I remember way back when a local group in Polk county wanted to disinfranchise escapees and another group stood with us. 

That was actually a candidate for county commissioner who lost, after campaigning at Rainbow's End, as he had in two previous elections when he won. When he lost the 2000 election he filed suit against the county clerk for having allowed Escapees (named in the suit) to register and vote in Polk County. In November of 2000 the suit Curtis v. Smith, was pursued in federal courts and B.E. “Slim” SPEIGHTS, Appellant, v. Bob WILLIS, Appellee was filed in the state courts. This appeal from the original court ruling heard and ruled on in October of 2002 and was later appealed to the TX Supreme Court. I don't seem to have a link to that ruling any longer but if I remember accurately their final ruling didn't come until about the first of 2003. They did rule in favor of the Escapee's right to vote and that president stands to this day. 

I don't know what local group you refer to but was we were just becoming Polk Co. voters at the time, we were very interested in the case and followed it closely and I was never aware of such group. I can tell you that the Escapees RV club was very much involved in the case and if you read the court documents you will see testimony quoted there from several of the members. 

5 hours ago, buckeyefan4 said:

We are not going to give up the right to vote after defending that right for others.  We're beginning to make plans and exploring options if we get disenfranchised in Texas.

I have no way of knowing what it is that you are watching, but I can tell you that the issue is being examined closely as the CEO of Escapees, Shawn Loring is a practicing attorney and is very much involved in any issue that impacts the club. Lets not be frightened by problems that have not yet happened. 

Edited by Kirk W
correct typo
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Kirk, since the specific law cite was passed and signed into law June 1st and took effect Sept 1st, it would seem that it is long past time when Escapees would be letting all of its mail users their status as far as voting goes so that people can make any adjustments, such as "moving" to a different state as we are also considering.    

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I didn't do a good job but unless my memory is faulty there were  persons from two different  political parties involved and I was trying not to name the parties. I am certain what Kirk said is correct and I should have maybe said "individuals" vs group.

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KirkW,

Thank you for the post.  I am not "frightened" by much anymore.  But I do know this law has been passed and may be problematic.  I also do like to plan ahead and anticipate issues.  I am also very passionate about protecting my right to vote.  I'm awaiting communication from Escapees about the impact of this law and will have my plans in place to act accordingly.  Simple as that. 

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7 hours ago, Barbaraok said:

Kirk, since the specific law cite was passed and signed into law June 1st and took effect Sept 1st, it would seem that it is long past time when Escapees would be letting all of its mail users their status as far as voting goes so that people can make any adjustments, such as "moving" to a different state as we are also considering.    

Isn't the mail forwarding service Escapee's bread & butter?

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Kirk,

I think we can look to the bill's sponsor for intent of the law.  This bill was spearheaded by Republican state Sen. Paul Bettencourt, R-Houston, who before being elected in 2014 served as Harris County's Tax Assessor-Collector, which at the time was the the county's voter registrar.

Bettencourt's argument has been that no one lives in a P.O. Box.  “We have 4,800 people registered at private UPS boxes around the county, and that’s certainly enough to influence the outcome of local legislative races or district races of all types," Bettencourt said.  In fact, this was the same argument made by the dissenting judge in the  SPEIGHTS v. WILLIS case you cited.

Regarding the address on your voter registration form matching your driver's license, yes, that document is permitted when responding to a voter registration confirmation form.  However, the voter confirmation form clearly states that "A
person may not establish a residence at any place the person has not inhabited."  This is a new phrase in the law added by SB1111.  Which goes back to what seems to the intent of the law that you can't live in a PO Box and use that to establish residency.

Again, not trying to fear-monger, but there is enough doubt/confusion that an opinion by an Escapees attorney on impact to members voting rights would be very helpful.

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4 hours ago, buckeyefan4 said:

Again, not trying to fear-monger, but there is enough doubt/confusion that an opinion by an Escapees attorney on impact to members voting rights would be very helpful.

I didn't mean to imply that you were, only that this kind of thing takes some time to sort out and isn't that easy to answer. As I said earlier, it is being looked into and clearly has the potential to become a problem, but making noise that Escapees should be telling everyone the answer, as did another person in the thread is unreasonable.  For them to make statements before the details are known would gain us nothing. The reason I know it is being researched is that I shared your first post with one of the attorneys. Legal issues take time to figure out. The suit that I referenced came years after the laws were put in place and yet there had been no definitive ruling until that happened. I doubt that you will see anything change unless and until someone makes this a further issue. The law was brought about by the homeless problems in Austin. Like most laws, it may well have ramifications beyond what were intended. 

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Kirk, before we have had to send in our request for annual mail in ballots because of being over 65 in January.  That isn't that many months away for the 2022 election year which will have primaries as well as general election.  I looked at the bill record and didn't see any objections from Escapees made while it was being considered.  I had been under the impression that someone from the company reviewed pending legislation for any problems that the proposed law could raise for full time RVers who used Escapees as their home base.  Was I was mistaken about this?

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59 minutes ago, Barbaraok said:

 Was I was mistaken about this?

How would I know? I suspect that you are as they did not have any fulltime lobbyists the last that I knew. Perhaps you should find out the facts is before you make comments?  

Edited by Kirk W
correct typo
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Hello Everyone,

We have attorneys in Austin looking into this new law further. The good news is that, to our knowledge, no one has been unable to register to vote using their Escapees Mail Service address to date. It is extremely important, however, that full-time RVers who choose Texas as their domicile, carefully set up their domicile records to prove that they do indeed have a “physical presence” in the state, showing their intent to call Texas their home. Having doctors, banks, storage, fitness club, and so on in the vicinity helps prove their intent.

We’ll be working closely with our attorneys on any issues that arise, but we believe that full-time RVers, who are legally domiciled in Polk County, Texas, and use Escapees Mail Service/Rainbow’s End as their mailing/residence address, will continue to be allowed to register to vote, just as they have over the past 35 years.

Escapees, as always, will share information with the membership through our regular communications channels, such as club newsletters, social media, and website. Know that Escapees will continue to do everything within our power to protect the constitutional rights of full-time RVers.

Sincerely,
Travis Carr

President | Escapees RV Club

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It isn't a matter of being allowed to register, it is VOTING BY MAIL either as someone over 65 or someone who is traveling.    Also, is Escapees going to notify us that an inquiry about voting has landed in our mailboxes so we can get and reply before the 30 days is up?  And when are they going to send out those inquiries?    Since so many of us do everything online anymore, the length between getting mail sent has lengthened considerably.  Often once a month or longer. 

 

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2 hours ago, traviscarr said:

We have attorneys in Austin looking into this new law further. The good news is that, to our knowledge, no one has been unable to register to vote using their Escapees Mail Service address to date.

 It's been a whole 13 days since SB 1111 went into effect, too!

 

2 hours ago, traviscarr said:

Know that Escapees will continue to do everything within our power to protect the constitutional rights of full-time RVers.

The Winnebago Vote

Edited by Zulu
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Travis and Kirk,

Thank you for the response.  It is reassuring to know there are attorneys examining this law to help protect our right to vote.

Regarding any future communications about this law from the attorneys, one specific item that would be helpful to me is how to legally respond to the "Notice to Confirm Voter Registration Address by Providing Documentation" (SOS Form 17-4, 8/2021) if we receive this from the Polk County Registrar.  This is the form sent if  the residence address on your voter registration application has been identified as a commercial post office box or similar location that does not correspond to a residence. The purpose of this notice is to confirm that the address  provided to the voter registrar is indeed a residential address.  When this form is received we have only 30 days to respond, so it's best to know how to respond now given a short timeline, especially if we are on the road and not getting mail on a regular basis.  If we do not respond in 30 days we are removed from the voting rolls.

At the bottom of this form are 5 statements that must be attested to by the recipient of the form.  In my view sections (a) and (f) under the definition of residence are at the crux of this issue for members of the Escapees.  Any advice on legally responding to these sections and attesting to the form would be most helpful.

 I tried to attach a copy of the form, but it is too large.  Here's the pertinent section requiring affirmation: 

I understand that giving false information to procure a voter registration is perjury, and a cri me under state and federal law. Conviction of this crime 
may result in imprisonment up to 180 days, a fine up to $2,000, or both. Please read all five statements to affirm before signing. 
• I am a resident of this county and a U.S. Citizen; 
• I have not been finally convicted of a felony, or if a felon, I have completed all of my punishment including any term of incarceration, 
parole, supervision, period of probation, or I have been pardoned; 
• I have not been determined by a final judgment of a court exercising probate jurisdiction to be totally mentally incapacitated or 
partially mentally incapacitated without the right to vote; 
• My residence address as listed above meets the definition of residence as defined by Section 1.015 , Texas Election Code and listed 
below. 
Sec. 1.015. RESIDENCE. (a) In this code, "residence" means domicile, that is, one's home and fixed place of habitation 
to which one intends to return after any temporary absence. (b) A person may not establish residence for the purpose 
of influencing the outcome of a certain election. (c) A person does not lose the person's residence by leaving the 
person's home to go to another place for temporary purposes only. (d) A person does not acquire a residence in a 
place to which the person has come for temporary purposes only and without the intention of making that place the 
person's home. (e) A person who is an inmate in a penal institution or who is an involuntary inmate in a hospital or 
eleemosynary institution does not, while an inmate, acquire residence a t the place where the institution is located. (f) 
A person may not establish a residence at any place the person has not inhabited. A person may not designate a 
previous residence as a home and fixed place of habitation unless the person inhabits the place at the time of 
designation and intends to remain. 
• If my residence has no address, I swear that the concise description given above accurately describes where I live. 


Thank you again!

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2 hours ago, buckeyefan4 said:

. . . one specific item that would be helpful to me is how to legally respond to the "Notice to Confirm Voter Registration Address by Providing Documentation" (SOS Form 17-4, 8/2021)

PDF - Texas 17-4 (8/2021)

 

2 hours ago, buckeyefan4 said:

Section 1.015 , Texas Election Code and listed below. 
Sec. 1.015. RESIDENCE.

(a) In this code, "residence" means domicile, that is, one's home and fixed place of habitation to which one intends to return after any temporary absence.

(b) A person may not establish residence for the purpose of influencing the outcome of a certain election.

(c) A person does not lose the person's residence by leaving the person's home to go to another place for temporary purposes only.

(d) A person does not acquire a residence in a place to which the person has come for temporary purposes only and without the intention of making that place the person's home.

(e) A person who is an inmate in a penal institution or who is an involuntary inmate in a hospital or eleemosynary institution does not, while an inmate, acquire residence at the place where the institution is located.

(f) A person may not establish a residence at any place the person has not inhabited. A person may not designate a previous residence as a home and fixed place of habitation unless the person inhabits the place at the time of designation and intends to remain.

It looks like (a) and (d) are "solved" by Travis Carr's advice to "carefully set up their domicile records to prove that they do indeed have a “physical presence” in the state, showing their intent to call Texas their home. Having doctors, banks, storage, fitness club, and so on in the vicinity helps prove their intent."

However, if you don't actually live in TX, how do you get around (f)?

For those of you who have houses/property in another state, do you pay taxes on these or avoid taxes by claiming a TX domicile?

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