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Question 4 approved, upholding state law allowing Mass. residents without proof of lawful presence to get driver’s licenses

Marlene Sabido, a supporter of Yes on 4, donned a driver's license sign at the Yes on 1 and Yes on 4 event at the Colonnade Hotel in Boston on Tuesday.Carlin Stiehl for The Boston Globe

Massachusetts voters upheld a state law that allows residents who cannot provide proof of lawful presence in the United States to obtain a driver’s license or learner’s permit if they meet all the other qualifications for a standard license or learner’s permit.

Question 4 was approved by voters on a 53.6 to 46.4 percent margin with 87 percent of the vote counted, according to the Associated Press.

The law remains intact despite Gov. Baker’s veto and allows the legislation to take effect this summer authorizing immigrants in the state illegally to get driver’s licenses.

In an interview, before the AP made its call, organizers of Yes on Question 4 were confident of victory.


“I have a reason to celebrate,’' Lenita Reason, one of the supporters of the Yes on Question 4 effort, said in a telephone interview Wednesday. “I am positive this will be a victory for migrants, be a victory for Massachusetts.”

Elizabeth Sweet, executive director of the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition said in a statement she was “thrilled, but not surprised” that voters supported Question 4.

“We are incredibly glad to see that the policy we have long supported – which will ensure that all drivers, regardless of immigration status, take the same road test, meet the same identification requirements, and follow the same rules of the road – will remain law,’' she said in the statement.

Under the law, a resident must provide the Registry of Motor Vehicles with two documents that prove their identity, such as a foreign passport, birth certificate, or marriage certificate, to get a driver’s license or permit, the Globe has reported. The state is also required to make sure immigrants without legal residence are not automatically registered to vote.

Massachusetts is now the 17th state with a similar statute on the books.


Backers of No on Question 4 could not immediately be reached Wednesday.

Separately, Question 3 was defeated meaning the long-running fight between locally owned liquor stores and “big box” retailers will likely return to the Legislature next year.

With nearly 84 percent of the vote tallied around 10:48 a.m. Wednesday, the AP declared the No On Question 3 campaign had succeeded, having received 55.1 percent of the total votes cast. The outcome means, in general terms, that voters decided to keep the state’s current regulatory framework intact.

The issue represented the latest struggle between small, independent liquor stores and large retail chains over who can sell alcohol and what volume, the Globe has reported. The Yes on Question 3 was supported by the Massachusetts Package Stores Association which argued it represented an update to state liquor laws that protected locally owned liquor stores and would have doubled the number of beer and wine licenses a company or individual could control.

“This election should serve as notice to out of state-based food store chains and big box retail to stop the needless disruption, abide by state regulations and recognize that Massachusetts communities do not want unrestrained off-premises outlets selling high volumes of alcohol beverages at the cheapest price,” Ryan Maloney, association president and the owner of Julio’s Liquors in Westborough, said in a statement.

The trade association said it will now have to return to the Legislature for legal protection against efforts by national chain stores to deregulate the industry. “We will prevail and regroup because we must,” Rob Mellion, the executive director, said in a statement. “The future of locally owned retail and the communities they serve are at stake.”


The Total Wine & More chain has funded a campaign in opposition to Question 3, the Globe reported. A spokesman was not immediately available Wednesday.

John R. Ellement can be reached at Follow him @JREbosglobe.