UPDATE: On October 19, I received a note from St. Brendan’s Isle that customers were being allowed to register to vote and were voting with no problems. They expected this to continue into the future, making this an issue no longer.
For years, one of the great things about using St. Brendan’s Isle (US) as your “address” was that it was relatively simple to get a driver’s license, title and register your boat, get insurance and register to vote there. SBI had gone out of their way to teach county officials about our way of life and also to walk cruisers (and RVers and other wandering types) through the paperwork.
Then, a couple of days ago, a bomb dropped. Some time ago, the Clay County Supervisor of Elections requested the Florida Division of Elections to look at the issue of “domicile” at a mail forwarding service for the purpose of voting. The advisory opinion was handed down in June. And it basically says that filing a declaration of domicile, having your driver’s license, insurance, car and boat registration and everything else there doesn’t really make you a resident for voter registration purposes. And so they are going to be looking at everyone who is registered with a “411 Walnut Street” address and taking steps to remove those from the voter rolls who don’t meet the new criteria.
PassageMaker magazine wrote a longer article that explains the decision in far greater detail; read it here.
The relevant part of the advisory opinion reads:
Customers of a private mail forwarding service who attempt to establish legal residency in a county by filing a Declaration of Domicile that fails to list a residential address or that lists a nonresidential address at which they do not reside and who have no other meaningful contact with the county other than using the services of this enterprise in the county to receive mail, secure a Florida driver license or Florida identification card, and obtain a license plate, or hull number for a boat, without having a past or present physical presence and intent to establish permanent residency in the county is not sufficient to establish residency for voter registration purposes and are most likely not legal residents of the county.
The article says that it’s unlikely that people will be removed from the voter rolls before the August primary or November mid-term elections but the prospect of being disenfranchised is frightening no matter where you lie on the political spectrum.
Since we are now basing ourselves in the Florida Keys — Monroe County — I’m going to be changing all our “paperwork” to Monroe County over the next week to ensure that we will be able to vote. Since I have an alternative, I figure it’s best not to wait and trust I won’t be purged before the elections.
If you’re currently registered in Clay County, Florida with an address at SBI, I urge you to read the PassageMaker article and decide if you should change your registration. And if you’re a full-time cruiser without a land base or home marina, I don’t know where you might be eligible to register. It’s a real problem.
Important dates if you are going to change your registration (source):
- Registration deadline for the August 28 primary: July 30, 2018
- Registration deadline for the November 6 general election: October 9, 2018
UPDATE: Since posting this article about 6 hours ago, I got an email from one of the owners of St. Brendan’s Isle, who had seen my post and wanted to clarify what they are doing. Here’s the full text:
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As you are aware The Department of State has issued an opinion in regards to voter registration for full time travelers (Cruisers and RVers). I saw on your blog some information about the issue that is currently being looked at. I wanted to reach out to you to give you our stance and what we are doing to combat this. This in turn will allow you to communicate to your subscribers as well as it relates to voter registration in the state of Florida and us – St. Brendan’s Isle.
We have retained legal counsel and will be fighting this. At this time we are working with various channels to get this resolved as we move forward we will keep you informed. Also, to clarify some misinformation out there (it didn’t take long for that to happen). Anyone currently registered to vote in Clay county or any county for that matter in Florida will continue to do so. This issue is not just a Clay County issue as this is a statewide issue. We have sent out a press release and it will be out in several RV and Cruising publications. It is important that we fight this but at the same time make sure misinformation is not spread and end up fighting this in the wrong direction. It is important to spearhead this thing precisely and that is our intention. Below is what has been released to date.
ST BRENDAN’S ISLE FIGHTS FOR INDIVIDUAL VOTING RIGHTS
Recently my partner Scott Loehr and I, Doug Moody, were notified that our Clients would no longer be able to vote in Clay County, FL unless they previously lived in the County. This affects about 24% of our Clients. We are monitoring the situation closely and have retained legal counsel to help protect the constitutional rights of our clients, if those rights become adversely affected. We want them to know, if they receive a questionnaire or correspondence from the Supervisor of Elections regarding their voter status, we are available to assist them. This has no impact on receiving or shipping their mail or any other services we provide to them.
For our other 5,500 Clients who have chosen not to vote or vote in other locales, we want them to know that there will be no changes. They will continue to receive our Convenient, Dependable, and Friendly services, tomorrow, next week, next year, and for decades to come. We will continue to receive and ship their mail, scan their new mail, submit their USCG Vessel Documentation Renewal papers and provide any other administrative services they require.
As one of the largest mail forwarding services in the country, we are known for our outstanding service. So, it should come as no surprise to anyone that today we are fighting for our Clients right to vote and tomorrow we will be there to help them live their dream.