People Without a Country

I have written a number of times about the growing ranks of RVers who have completely abandoned a permanent address and spend their entire life on the road.  I know these folks because I hire about 400 of them every summer to run our campgrounds and recreational facilities.  It is a fascinating subculture, that in some ways mirrors the habits of a great nomadic tribe that roams all over the country but comes together in a few camps to meet and interact in the winter (e.g. Colorado River between Yuma and Quartzite).  The numbers are large:

The Census says more than 105,000 Americans live full-time in RVs,
boats or vans, though one RV group says the number is more like half a
million. Because of their nomadic ways, pinning down their number with
any certainty is difficult.

The AP has an article about how difficult it is becoming for some of these folks to vote, since a number of states are beginning to require a permanent physical address  (most of these folks have PO Boxes run by companies that forward their mail).

A total of 286 people who live full-time in their recreational vehicles
were dropped from the voter rolls in one Tennessee county over the past
two years because they did not have a genuine home address, only a
mailbox. That has left them unable to vote in national or local
elections....

But some elections officials say that voters should have a real
connection to the place where they are casting ballots, and that RVers
are registering in certain states simply to avoid taxes. Some of them
rarely, if ever, set foot in those states.

I guess they need a real connection to their state, kind of like, say, Hillary Clinton had to New York when she ran for the Senate there.  I know that the immediate reaction from many of you may be that this is
somehow weird and, being weird, it is OK to lock them out of voting.
But I can attest these folks are all quite normal people who are
seduced by the ability to live anywhere they want, on the spur of the
moment, and who revel in being able to simplify their life enough to
fit all their worldly goods into an RV and hit the road.

This part is total BS:

David Ellis, the former Bradley County Election Commission director who
started removing full-time RVers, said they have no connection to the
area and are simply "dodging their responsibility to pay their fair
share" of taxes.

RVers pay taxes in the states in which they work, not in their home state  (just like everyone else, by the way).  RVers, who rent their living site, pay the same property taxes (ie zero) that any other renter pays.

For the record, none of my folks have reported a problem.  However, these problems are just going to get worse.  Crackdowns both on illegal immigration and hypothesized terrorism are making more difficult to complete any number of basic tasks, like banking, without a permanent physical address.

  • http://blog.myspace.com/jensfiederer Jens Fiederer

    > RVers, who rent their living site, pay the same property taxes (ie zero)
    > that any other renter pays.

    I'm not sure that is fair to renters.
    Since the landlord must cover costs SOMEHOW, the property taxes (or part thereof) are paid with rent money.

    Rent payers simply don't pay property taxes DIRECTLY.

  • Max Lybbert

    Generally, though, there is a residency requirement to avoid fraud. Of course, you can reside in a state for a month or so without having a permanent address during that month. Hmm, there ought to be a way to verify the residency.

  • TripAZ

    I remember a class I took at ASU, "Human Geography", in which these people were referred to by a similar term - 'recreational nomads'.

  • CT_Yankee

    Strange. I think we already have a system in place to deal with this issue. When I was in the military and stationed outside my home state for a few years, I (along with several other people I worked with) voted by absentee ballot without difficulty. This included local elections. It was simply necessary to declare a "home of record" that was used for taxes, travel pay, voting, and anything else that normally wanted a physical address.

    Getting the absentee ballot did require an application that an officer had to sign. I suspect the easiest way to establish a nomadic country wide residency is to list it on your passport. Local officials can't mess with the federal passport. This also prevents voter or tax fraud by claiming to be from more than one place, depending on the issue. I just pulled out my driver's license to vote, but I could have used my passport in a national election at any authorized voting center if I was 2,000 miles away from home that day.

  • will

    My wife and I are thinking about joining the group (RV nomads) when we retire (about 5-8 years) and it's not about avoiding taxes but avoiding bad weather. Ohio can be cold in the winter :-)

  • dearieme

    The daftest election rule I've ever heard of was for the last round of European elections, in which Gibraltar was deemed to be part of the South West of England. So, why not deem your nomads to be residents of DC?

  • hanmeng

    This issue of the elderly homeless must be addressed by raising the taxes on the rich to pay for housing for these poor people. Michael Moore should make a movie!

  • John Galt

    In Texas, we don't have an income tax.

    Government is paid for through a combination of sales taxes and property taxes (which, as a previous commenter noted, are rolled into rents if you don't own). Someone who has an RV and spends most of his time in other States pays neither.

    In that case, I can understand why people might be shut out of local elections, though how this differs from voting absentee as a college student or military is beyond me.

  • Charlie B

    Gibraltar is a British overseas territory.

  • dearieme

    True, Charlie, and the clue lies in "overseas" - it really isn't in any part of England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland.

  • http://fun4camping.com Wendy

    As previously stated, Texas does not have an Income Tax. And property taxes are paid by the owner of the rented property whether that property is rented or not - so the previous statement regarding the "fairness" to landlord do not apply. RVer's are a great help to the economy. I am a manager of an RV Park, & when our sites are empty, that is when we have problems.

  • http://fun4camping.com Wendy

    As previously stated, Texas does not have an Income Tax. And property taxes are paid by the owner of the rented property whether that property is rented or not - so the previous statement regarding the "fairness" to landlord do not apply. RVer's are a great help to the economy. I am a manager of an RV Park, & when our sites are empty, that is when we have problems.

  • http://www.camping-r-us.com.au camping

    I agree. Having spent 9 months living out of an RV I found it extremely difficult. The main problem I had is that if you stay in a state for more than 30 days you have to get a drivers licence in that state.