What makes a resident a resident?
In order to be considered a resident who is bidding on a public contract, one must have lived in the state for a year prior to the bid.
To be eligible to vote one must currently reside in the state and plan to continue to reside here at the time of registration.
For resident hunting permits they must live here for 90 days, have a South Dakota drivers license and have a motor vehicle registered... however the last two requirements are rarely if ever verified.
What does it take to get a drivers license? Nothing (in terms of residency).
For in-state tuition a student must have lived in the state for 1 year without attending school.
In order to be a South Dakota legislator one must have lived in the state for two years while in order to be a US Senator or Representative they must only be an inhabitant of the state when elected.
I have little doubt there are other measures out there, the above is intended solely to demonstrate that there are different measures today with different levels of enforcement.
Why does all of this matter?
Likely in response to some alleged shenanigans related to last years abortion battle, the South Dakota legislature is considering legislation that among other things, would require a signature collector to be a South Dakota resident... only one problem... how are they defining resident?
Unfortunately the answer is that they aren't.
This question came up this morning when I first learned about this bill while listening to the the Greg Belfrage show (who seems to now have a blog) on KELO AM and after a little on-air discussion I called in to ask if he knew the measure to be used... sadly he didn't. Later, after a quick look at the bill itself I realized that there isn't one.
While I support the bills intent, I am concerned about its enforcement... interpreting it by using the requirements to be to be a state legislator (2 years) seems a bit extreme as it would prevent many from participating in the election process who would still being able to vote... while interpreting it with the loose voting residence requirement would be far worse due to it's effectively change nothing as it would be trivial for out of state interests to come in, collect signatures and leave... all the while claiming that they were planning to stay but a short time later deciding otherwise... heck, nothing would stop them from getting a South Dakota drivers license for use only while here so as to appear more native when questioned about their residency.
A year sounds like a good requirement to me and while it is likely to late for such legislation this year, perhaps for the 2008 legislative session the South Dakota legislature should sit down and come up with a single definition of residency so as to avoid these kinds of issues and reduce confusion in future.