A group campaigning for Massachusetts voters to check “yes” on a ballot question that would uphold a law that allows people without legal immigration status to get driver’s licenses is spending half a million dollars to take their message to the airwaves.
With less than a month left until Election Day on Nov. 8, the Yes on 4 for Safer Roads campaign released its first television ad Tuesday. The 30-second ad, dubbed “Yes on 4: Route to Safer Roads,” will appear on television, streaming services, and digital platforms in the Boston area and cost about $500,000, a spokeswoman for the campaign said.
The law, which goes into effect next summer, allows people without legal immigration status to obtain a driver’s license by providing two documents that prove their identity, such as a foreign passport, birth certificate, or marriage certificate.
The ad underscores the key arguments made by lawmakers and advocacy groups who pushed for the original legislation: that the policy would result in safer drivers, that similar laws in other states have led to fewer uninsured drivers, and that it is a policy law enforcement officials across the state have endorsed.
The Massachusetts Major City Chiefs of Police supports the law, saying officers feel safer knowing the identity of drivers they encounter, as do insurance companies and immigrant rights advocates, who estimate the law would affect roughly 250,000 undocumented people living in Massachusetts.
“In Massachusetts there’s a route to creating safer roads, no map needed,” the narrator says in the ad. “Put yourself in the driver’s seat for road safety. Vote yes on Question 4.”
In a statement, campaign co-chairs Lenita Reason, executive director of the Brazilian Worker Center, and 32BJ SEIU Executive Vice President Roxana Rivera said they were grateful for the support that allowed their campaign to run the television ad.
“Our broad coalition of support has given us the opportunity to hit the airwaves and spread the word about how voting ‘yes’ on Question 4 will support a commonsense law that will make the Commonwealth’s roads safer for all of us,” they wrote.
Question 4 was the last question to make the Nov. 8 ballot after more than 71,000 signatures were verified by state officials after being submitted by opponents of the law. Fair and Secure Massachusetts, a Republican-affiliated group working to repeal the new law, announced it had received enough signatures to get Question 4 on the ballot by late August, days before the Sept. 7 deadline.
Because the question qualified for the ballot too late, an explanation was not printed in an informational pamphlet mailed to voters.
The “no” campaign” says the new law rewards people who are breaking the law by living in the country and will encourage others to do the same. They also argue that the expansion of driver’s licenses would threaten election security, though the new law specifies that people without legal immigration status would not be automatically registered to vote.
The “Yes on 4 for Safer Roads” campaign outraised and outspent their opposition between July and October, with the bulk of its donations coming from the 32BJ Service Employees International Union and the ACLU of Massachusetts. At the end of the ad, a disclaimer shows that Massachusetts-based Arbella Insurance and other SEIU chapters are among the top donors.
The new law was enacted in June after Massachusetts legislators voted to override a veto from Governor Charlie Baker, who said the proposal could threaten election security among other concerns.
Massachusetts joined 16 other states and the District of Columbia in passing such legislation, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.