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Voters will decide on drivers licenses

GOP-backed initiative passes signature count

Anna Lamb

After Republican activists gathered enough signatures to make it onto the ballot, the choice to repeal a state law granting the right for undocumented residents to obtain driver’s licenses will now officially be before Massachusetts voters this fall.

In June, Democratic senators voted 32-8 to override a veto by Republican Governor Charlie Baker, passing legislation to allow immigrants to obtain licenses, provided they show the necessary documentation proving Massachusetts residency. The new law, dubbed the Work and Family Mobility Act, would not allow the Registry of Motor Vehicles to keep documentation related to immigration status and would take effect next summer.

In response, the GOP-aligned Fair and Secure Massachusetts Coalition has gathered more than 40,000 signatures to get the question in front of voters. A “no” vote on the question would mandate lawmakers repeal the new law. The group has been led in part by Maureen Maloney, who said she has taken up the crusade after her son was killed in 2011 by a drunk driver who lacked legal immigration status.

Maloney, recruited to be the face of the movement by conservative gubernatorial candidate Geoff Diehl, says the law undermines the sanctity of U.S. laws and opens the door for voter fraud.

We are a country of rules and laws, and those rules and laws must be followed if we are to live in harmony together,” she told the Associated Press in a recent email.

Diehl has continued to make immigration a centerpiece of his Trump-backed campaign, contrasting himself to Democratic nominee Maura Healey, who has said she is in favor of immigrants obtaining licenses.

On Friday, Secretary of State Bill Galvin certified the signatures supporting the repeal question, which will appear as Question 4 in November.

Now, a coalition supporting a yes vote — in favor of upholding the law — has come together, calling themselves the “Yes for Safer Roads Coalition.” The group is made up of law enforcement, immigrant rights activists and union organizers. They dispute claims that drivers licensed under the law will gain anything but the ability to drive safer.

“Voting Yes on 4 is just common sense: All of us will be safer if all drivers on the road passed a driving test, have insurance and have a license,” said Roy Vasque, Lawrence chief of police and vice president of the Massachusetts Major Cities Chiefs of Police Association (MMCC), in a statement. “Everyone needs to get to work and get to school, so let’s do everything we can to get people where they’re going safely.”

According to the Safer Roads coalition, all 42 MMCC chiefs from across the state support the Work and Family Mobility Act. They have also stressed that a yes vote on 4 will not automatically register non-citizens to vote and that the driver’s licenses will have no impact on plane travel or be used as evidence of the holder’s citizenship, nationality or immigration status.

So far, 17 states, including neighboring states Vermont and Connecticut, have passed similar legislation that allows such driver’s licenses. If supported, the new law will take effect July 1, 2023.