Question 4: Voters opt to keep law allowing immigrants without legal status to get driver’s licenses

The law takes effect on July 1.

David L. Ryan/Globe Staff
Question 4 concerned a law that would allow residents to obtain Massachusetts driver's licenses regardless of their immigration status.

Massachusetts will keep a controversial law allowing residents to receive driver’s licenses regardless of their immigration status, voters decided Tuesday. 

With more than 87% of precincts reporting and 53.6% of the votes in favor, the Associated Press declared victory for the “yes” campaign on Wednesday.

That victory is years in the making, according to Yes on 4 For Safer Roads.

Mass. elections

“Together, we won safer roads and increased mobility access for everyone in our state, regardless of status,” the campaign said in a statement posted on Twitter. “We won, in the end, because our movement is a reflection of all of us, and we couldn’t be more proud of this strong, diverse coalition we have built.”


The law will allow Massachusetts residents who cannot provide proof of lawful presence in the U.S. to receive their driver’s license if they otherwise meet the qualifications and provide proof of their identity, date of birth, and residency. It does not, however, allow residents without legal immigration status to obtain a REAL ID, a federal ID that can be used to fly within the U.S. 

The law was enacted in June, after state legislators voted to override Gov. Charlie Baker’s veto. A GOP-backed initiative brought the matter to voters under Question 4. 

Supporters of the Work and Family Mobility Act have described the law as a common sense public safety measure that ensures drivers are qualified, licensed, and insured. 

California saw up to 10% fewer hit-and-run crashes per year when it passed a law to license drivers regardless of immigration status, according to a report from the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center, a think tank.

Utah and New Mexico saw their rates of uninsured drivers decrease by 80% and 60%, respectively, after passing their laws, according to MassBudget.

Having a driver’s license also gives people better access to work and school opportunities, Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll — the state’s next lieutenant governor — testified on Beacon Hill in April.


The law instructs the Registry of Motor Vehicles to establish procedures to ensure that immigrants without legal status aren’t automatically registered to vote. 

However, opponents cast doubt on the RMV’s ability to handle its new responsibilities and suggested the law could attract more immigrants without legal status to Massachusetts.

“The rule of law matters,” Jim Lyons, chairman of the state Republican Party, told reporters on election night, according to The Boston Globe. “You know, I remember when I was a young man and got my driver’s license, it was a privilege. So why are we rewarding people for bad behavior? They’re in the country illegally. They shouldn’t get their license.”

Sen. Brendan Crighton, one of the law’s original sponsors, maintained that “the facts are on our side,” during an election night party held at the Colonnade Hotel in Boston, according to MassLive

“Driving to the grocery store, driving to your hospital appointment, to school, to work. All the things we take for granted,” he said. “There will be access to all for Massachusetts drivers.”

What comes next?

The law takes effect on July 1, at which point residents will be able to obtain driver’s licenses regardless of their immigration status.


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