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RV voters

Really interesting story about a group of RV owners who “live” in a park in Polk County and vote there, but are seldom actually physically present.

On the one hand, Escapees Inc. is a business catering to recreational vehicle enthusiasts. Rainbow’s End, its headquarters, features a 140-acre RV park complete with a swimming pool, more than 150 RV lots, a clubhouse, a library and an adult day-care center whose services are available to all Polk County residents.

On the other, the Escapees organization is the largest and most influential voting bloc in Polk County, a group of older, mostly Republican voters that has the potential to influence elections local and statewide.

Supporters of the Escapees — and the Escapees are known throughout the county as good citizens — say the group uses its political clout wisely and responsibly. Detractors, most of them members of a diminished Democratic Party, argue the organization represents an ongoing abuse of Texas’ lax residency requirements.

The confluence of clout and community resides in a 10,000-square-foot building on Rainbow Drive in the RV park. The building houses a mail-forwarding service for more than 32,000 member-families of the RV club. The service, which handles some 2 million pieces of mail a year, allows RV enthusiasts, most of them vagabonding about the country for much of the year, to receive mail at Rainbow’s End — and to cast mail-in ballots in Polk County elections wherever they happen to be.

Only a few hundred RVers live in the park at least semi-permanently, but about 14,000 Escapees members are registered to vote in Polk County, even if they rarely, if ever, visit. All they have to do is come into Texas once — to get a driver’s license — and the state recognizes them as Polk County residents.

The Escapees, all with addresses on Rainbow Drive, make up two voting precincts and account for 40 percent of the 35,000 registered voters in the county. Those numbers give them enormous influence — if they choose to use it — over who gets elected to county and state legislative offices. Escapees Inc. mails out a voter registration certificate as part of its membership packet.

No question, Texas voter registration law is permissive. As long as you don’t vote in more than one place, you can pretty much claim residency and register to vote wherever you want. I guess the way I’d look at this is where should someone who basically lives on the road be allowed to register? It has to be somewhere, and I don’t see how any one place is going to be more or less acceptable than any other. I sympathize with the Polk County complainants, but I don’t think they’re going to win anything in court. They might try for a legislative remedy for their issue, but I doubt they’ll get anywhere there, either. I’m not really sure there is a good answer for them.

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One Comment

  1. Jeb says:

    These people are also tax dodgers. Claiming residency in Texas where there is no income tax in order to avoid paying taxes back home.