Voters will decide on four ballot questions in the 2022 Massachusetts elections on Nov. 8. Here is what you need to know about Question 4, regarding eligibility for driver’s licenses.
What is this ballot question about?
Question 4 asks voters whether to uphold a new law that allows immigrants who are here illegally to apply for a Massachusetts driver’s license. The law, which goes into effect next summer, allows them to obtain a driver’s license by providing two documents that prove their identity, such as a foreign passport, birth certificate, or marriage certificate.
Under the new law, the state is required to ensure that people who lack proof of legal residence are not automatically registered to vote under the state law that registers those seeking driver’s licenses who are of voting age.
A yes vote would keep the law in place, which would allow Massachusetts residents who are in the United States illegally to obtain a driver’s license or permit if they meet the other requirements for doing so. It would make Massachusetts the 17th state to have such a policy.
A no vote would repeal the law.
Who is backing each side?
The Massachusetts Republican party is leading the effort to repeal the law (the “no” side). The law was enacted in June after state legislators voted to override a veto from Governor Charlie Baker, who said the measure could threaten election security, among other concerns. Fair and Secure Massachusetts, a Republican-affiliated group working to repeal the law, is bolstered by auto parts executive and GOP activist Rick Green.
The campaign to uphold the law, called “Yes on 4 for Safer Roads,” outraised and outspent the opposition, with the bulk of its donations coming from the 32BJ Service Employees International Union and the ACLU of Massachusetts. The Massachusetts Major City Chiefs of Police also supports the law, saying officers feel safer knowing the identity of drivers they encounter.
What do those in favor say?
The campaign in support of keeping the existing law in place (the “yes” side) argues that the policy allows all Massachusetts drivers to be vetted properly, pass required tests, and buy insurance, so that they can drive legally to work and school, regardless of immigration status.
Supporters say that 17 states that passed similar laws saw a decline in uninsured drivers and hit-and-run crashes, one reason why this measure is endorsed by more than 60 law enforcement officials statewide.
Those in favor of keeping the law also deny suggestions that it would allow immigrants more access to benefits or voting, saying the law has nothing to do with that and instead is about safer roads.
They point out that the Registry of Motor Vehicles already processes permits and licenses for some people who are ineligible to vote, such as 16-17 year-old citizens and adult green card holders, without registering them to vote.
What do those opposed say?
Critics say the new law rewards people who are breaking laws by living in the country without status and will only encourage others to do the same.
They also say they view the issue to be a federal one rather than something over which the state should have authority.
Opponents of the law point to Baker’s veto, in which he stated that the RMV does not have the capability or expertise necessary to verify documents from other countries.
They also point to Baker’s veto message, in which he said the law “restricts the registry’s ability to share citizenship information with those entities responsible for ensuring that only citizens register for and vote in our elections.”