A BIPOC Nomad’s Guide to Voting from the Road

By Lilibeth Castanedo

As a first generation Cuban American artist from Miami, Florida I have grown up in a whirlwind of passion and politics.

Miami is a special place where the caribbean kisses the south and dances in a toxic exchange of ecstatic culture and backwards political agendas. My Cuban heritage teaches me that through the depths of the darkest moments, we have to keep dancing, loving, and taking care of each other to  persevere through it all and grow.  There’s not an ocean or a politician in the world that can stop us from fighting for what we believe in. I have been living full time in a 1989 Dodge Xtravan Xplorer that my partner and I renovated since June 2021. While we travel, we work with organizations to improve voter turnout rates, provide mutual aid, and build community.

Living nomadically  we face the complications of voting without a home address or domicile. This is a conflict that many people face that don’t have a typical home. While we do have a home on wheels or under stars, receiving mail and voting can be a bit of a challenge since we might not be at the same place for long.

Voting is already a struggle for many marginalized communities and can become even more so when transitioning to living on the road or outside,  but it’s important to stay informed and stay involved. Along with figuring out where to register to vote you’ll decide which state to be a resident of, where to file your taxes, where you’ll receive mail, and where to register your vehicle. 

The first step is answering these questions:

  1. Are you already registered to vote in your home state?
  2. Do you want to stay a resident of that state?
  3. Do you have friends or family who can receive and forward mail to you?

If you said “yes” to any of these, great!

Make sure you check with your state’s laws to update your voter registration. Some states require your photo id address and voter registration card address match. The state that you choose to vote in should also be the state where your vehicle is registered, and where you receive mail. If you work remotely, this would also be the state that you file your taxes with. It would make sense for this state to be frequented and perhaps even house your storage unit, although not necessary.

Note about P.O. boxes: You could establish a P.O. box to receive mail, but it cannot be used for official documents like voter registration, vehicle registration, or insurance. 

Virtual mail is another option.This comes with a fee, but acts as a physical address.

You cannot use a virtual mail address to establish residency, but you can use it to maintain it. 

With a virtual mail address you could renew your license, vehicle registration, and insurance. 

While you can receive your mail at this address, you will still need to have an actual address somewhere local to register to vote and file taxes. 

Another option to establish residency, file taxes, and secure a voting address is to find a local advocacy group, shelter,or organization that might let you use their address. Legally you do not need to have a traditional dwelling to register to vote. 

According to the National Homeless Coalition: “Designation of a residential address or location of residence is required to ensure the voter lives within the district in which she/he wishes to register.most states require registrants to provide a mailing address so that voter ID cards and other election materials may be sent to registered voters.The address provided may be that of a local advocacy organization, shelter, outreach center, or anywhere else willing to accept mail on behalf of a person registering to vote.  Some states, like Arizona or Nebraska, allow homeless people to use county courthouses or county clerks’ offices as their mailing address.  Some states will not allow registrants to use a P.O. Box as a mailing address.  A registrant’s mailing address does not have to be the person’s residential address. “

If you do have mail sent to an organization, confirm with them if it’s okay to pick up important mail from them, or if they might even be able to forward it to you.After you have received your voters card and your absentee ballot, you should be able to mail it to your local election office.

The National Conference for state Legislatures says All states allow the return of absentee/mail ballots through the mail. Almost all states also permit voters to return a voted ballot in person at the office of the local election official (either the county election official or the town/city clerk, depending on who runs elections in the state). In addition, some states permit voters to drop off a voted absentee/mail ballot at Election Day voting locations or in secure drop boxes.

If you are unable to return an absentee ballot, you could assign a designee to return the ballot for you. Check local legislation regarding who and when someone can return a ballot for you here. It’s also important to note the dates that the absentee ballots should be postmarked or returned by.

Consider your Vote’s Impact

Personally, I remain a resident of Florida because I know that my vote matters there. As progressives flock to blue states, it’s important to remember that our influence in these swing states and red states is so needed. Granted, these states might not have the best legislation,they never will if there is not enough diversity in their voter demographic. In addition to voting, I recommend working with political outreach teams to engage BIPOC communities to go out and vote. These jobs are great for vanlife because they exist all over the country. Some positions are remote, part time, full time, and short term. There are also many volunteer opportunities near major elections. Participating in campaigns and election processes as someone who identifies as BIPOC means there will be that much more representation on the ground level which could help connect with communities with lower voter turn out.

Florida, Texas, & South Dakota

These predominantly conservative states benefit from progressive influence in their legislative processes, which is important to consider.


  • No state income tax
  • Driver’s license is valid for 8 years, and can be renewed once online.
  • Relatively inexpensive vehicle registration fees.
  • No state vehicle inspections.
  • Benefits from progressive political influence/ votes


  • No state income tax
  • No taxes on vehicle transfers.
  • Voter registration and obtaining absentee ballots can all be done by mail.
  • Although there is a required annual vehicle inspection, if you can’t get back to Texas right away this can be deferred until you actually return to the state. Once you enter Texas, your vehicle needs to be inspected within 30 days.
  • Licenses are good for 6 years, and can be renewed online.
  • Benefits from progressive political influence/votes

South Dakota:

  • No state income tax
  • No state vehicle inspections
  • You only need to stay in SD for one night to get a driver’s license.
  • You do not need to be in state to register vehicles.
  • Inexpensive driver’s license fees ($20 for a regular license)
  • Driver’s licenses are good for 5 years
  • Benefits from progressive political influence/votes

Other questions to consider while choosing a state residency:

  1. Will you frequently pass through that state?
  2. Could you rent a storage unit there?
  3. Do you have friends or family there you would like to visit?

It makes sense to choose a state that you might be visiting often. If you work remotely, something else to consider is whether a state has state taxes or not. It might not make sense to pay high state tax fees to a state if you;ll be on the road most of the time.

States without state tax:

  • Florida
  • Washington
  • Wyoming
  • Texas
  • Nevada
  • South Dakota
  • Alaska

When choosing state residency, remember these factors:

Voter registration and the impact your vote and involvement can have on political movements there.

Location and how often you’ll frequent the area

State/Federal taxes and where you can receive mail  to establish residency

Vehicle registration and insurance

Virtual mail is an option for renewing things like vehicle registration, license, and insurance, but remember to check your state’s legislature regarding your id matching your voter registration.

 If your license and voter card have to match – reaching out to friends, family, or local advocacy groups can help you establish a local voting address if you need a physical address. You’ll need a physical address for your taxes also.

Ultimately, you want to find a state that makes sense to you. Follow your intuition and I’m sure you’ll find where it feels like home. As we all know on the road, home exists anywhere we are. So surely you’ll find yourself there, wherever that is. 

Links to more info & resources:

Returning ballot info by state

Know your voting rights by state  

Mail in ballot info

Register to vote

Follow Lily and Diego on their adventures at @morningstar.the.van

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