Mass. GOP looks to repeal law allowing residents without legal status to get driver’s licenses

Politics

Republicans would need to gather enough signatures to place a question on November’s ballot.

Demonstrators at a rally in front of the Statehouse, held in support of allowing immigrants in the country illegally to obtain driver’s licenses in Massachusetts. Steven Senne/AP Photo

Last week, Massachusetts lawmakers voted to override a veto from Gov. Charlie Baker, officially creating a law that allows residents without legal immigration status to obtain a driver’s license. Now, the state’s Republicans are taking steps to undo this law.

A state committee member, with the backing of the state party chairman and leading GOP candidate for governor Geoff Diehl, filed paperwork Monday to start this process, The Boston Globe reported. In order for the measure to be repealed, a question would have to be placed on the ballot in November.

But first, 10 registered voters must submit a petition. That could happen on July 9, 30 days after the law was enacted. After that, organizers would have to collect 40,120 signatures by Sept. 7, the Globe reported. A question would then be placed on the ballot. 

But this endeavor could be a longshot, according to Rob Gray, a political consultant and analyst who helped run the 2020 automotive “right-to-repair” initiative.

“It seems unlikely they could muster the resources,” Gray told the Globe. “It’s a high hurdle in a short amount of time… it’s a heavy organizational challenge.”

Specifically, the cost of paid signature gatherers could be a stumbling block, he added. 

The effort to undo this law was kicked off by Diehl, who issued a statement with his running mate Leah Allen shortly after the override vote was taken.

“This bill is a bad bill,” Diehl said. “Leah and I will not sit by idly and watch the consequences of this bill take away the safety and democratic rights of Massachusetts residents.”

Diehl then reached out to Milford resident Maureen Maloney, chair of a new committee called Fair And Secure Massachusetts, the Globe reported. Maloney’s son was killed by a drunk driver without legal status. 

Maloney has been outspoken on such legislation in the past, and told the Globe that she plans to eschew a paid signature gathering firm, instead opting for “grassroots” gatherers. 

“This is an issue people feel strongly about. It has to be something that resonates with them. I think we will easily get the required signatures,” she told the Globe

The House voted 119-36 in favor of overriding Baker’s veto last week, and the Senate followed suit with a 32-8 vote. 

The bill initially moved through the two bodies in the spring, with Baker voicing concerns that it does not adequately protect against ineligible people registering to vote unlawfully. He also said that it would put an extra burden on local governments, according to WBUR.  

Baker vetoed the bill on May 27, saying that the Registry of Motor Vehicles does not have the know-how to consistently verify the numerous types of documents issued by other countries that would be used as proof of identity under the bill. 

Advocates for a bill like this had pushed for years to garner support and momentum. Eventually, the bill’s language was tightened in an effort to elicit more support from law enforcement, according to the Globe. This translated into more conservative support. Most of the state’s sheriffs and district attorneys supported the final bill. 

The law would take effect July 2023. Residents without legal immigration status would be able to obtain a driver’s license by providing two documents that prove their identity. This could include a foreign passport, a birth certificate, or a marriage certificate. 

Mass. GOP looks to repeal law allowing residents without legal status to get driver’s licenses