What is Question 4 on the general election ballot?
Question 4 as it will be written on the ballot is, “Do you approve of a law summarized below, which was approved by the House of Representatives and the Senate on May 26, 2022?”
The law is in reference to the Work and Family Mobility act, which allows for undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses and permits in the state of Massachusetts. The law also requires the registrar and the secretary of the commonwealth to establish regulations that ensure that individuals without lawful presence that apply for licenses and permits are not automatically registered to vote. The law is set to go into effect in July 2023.
In short, the question asks whether voters support keeping this law in place.
What does a “yes” vote mean?
Voting “yes” means you support keeping the law in place.
What does a “no” vote mean?
Voting “no” means you want the law repealed.
What are supporters saying?
Supporters, including state Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier (D-Berkshire), who was also a lead sponsor of the bill, say by allowing undocumented immigrants to go through the process of getting a driver’s license, the law will lead to safer roads.
“We want all drivers in Massachusetts to be trained, licensed and insured regardless of their immigration status,” Farley-Bouvier said in an interview. “We have seen in the data that in states that have passed this law, hit-and-run accidents have gone down significantly. If you’re hit by an uninsured driver it really hurts you much more than if the driver is insured.”
Farley-Bouvier also addressed concerns about the possibility of undocumented immigrants being registered to vote if they obtain a driver’s license.
“We also already have thousands of people every year who will get driver’s licenses that are eligible to drive but ineligible to vote,” Farley-Bouvier said. “The clearest examples are 16- and 17-year-olds, as well as green card holders and visa card holders. The RMV has many protections in place to make sure that doesn’t happen.”
What are opponents saying?
Opponents of the bill are concerned the law will allow for immigrants to automatically become registered to vote in Massachusetts. State Sen. Ryan Fattman (R-Worcester) believes the law as it is currently written does not effectively bar undocumented immigrants from the automatic registration process that can occur at RMV sites when a person applies for a driver’s license.
“When you register for a driver’s license, you are automatically enrolled to vote,” Fattman said. “That is a major loophole in this law. Right now, there are no regulations that say somebody who comes in to register for a license won’t be registered to vote if they’re here unlawfully.”
Sen. Fattman also believes the RMV is not equipped to deal with determining the documentation status of immigrants applying for driver’s licenses.
How did we get here?
For several years, there has been a push from groups including the Driving Families Forward coalition and state politicians to bring the Work and Family Mobility Act to the Massachusetts state legislature.
It gained momentum in recent years and was passed by the Democratic-controlled state House of Representatives and state Senate earlier this year. However, the bill was immediately vetoed by Republican Gov. Charlie Baker, who cited concerns over the possibility of undocumented immigrants gaining the ability to vote through the automatic registration process at the RMV. Democrats in the state House and Senate then overrode Baker’s veto with a three-fourths majority vote, allowing the bill to become a law.
After the override vote, the state Republican Party initiated a campaign to repeal the law, obtaining signatures for a petition that would create a referendum on the general election ballot to allow voters to decide whether the law should remain.
After reaching enough signatures on the petition, Secretary of the Commonwealth Bill Galvin certified the signatures and added Question 4 to the general election ballot, making it the last addition to the ballot.