Signature effort on immigrant driver’s license law nears goal

Repeal bid hits signature target, now seeks to add some cushion

STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE

THE CAMPAIGN to repeal the new driver’s license law, which is set to open up license access to immigrants without legal status in Massachusetts, said it hit a milestone Wednesday and turned in the requisite number of signatures to print the repeal question on the November ballot.

Secretary of State Bill Galvin’s office, however,  offered some caution. Galvin spokeswoman Deb O’Malley said the office, through a statewide voter database, can view how many signatures have been certified at the local level by city and town clerks, an intermediary step that comes before the signatures are filed with Galvin’s office.

O’Malley said the statewide total of signatures on file in clerks’ offices around the state was more than the roughly 40,000 needed to place the repeal on the ballot, but not all of the signatures have been sent to the secretary’s office. O’Malley said the campaign filed a batch of signatures Thursday but they have not yet been counted, verified, or checked for extraneous marks. Voter signatures to place the license law question on November’s ballot must be filed with city and town clerks by August 24, then handed over to Galvin’s office by September 7.

Wendy Wakeman, administrator of the Fair And Secure Massachusetts committee, said her group plans  to round up another 20,000 signatures “so that we have a very comfortable margin to ensure that the question will appear on the ballot.”

Volunteers will be at supermarkets and shopping centers this weekend, she said, to collect fresh signatures and add them to the pipeline of what’s already at local clerks’ offices “because we are going to run across the finish line.”

It’s been a tight turnaround for signature-gathering, which kicked off in June after the Legislature overrode Gov. Charlie Baker’s veto of the so-called Work and Family Mobility Act.

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Sam Doran

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The law is set to take effect July 1, 2023, when all Massachusetts residents of legal age — regardless of immigration status — will be eligible to apply for standard driver’s licenses. For immigrants without legal status, various documents will still be required to prove identity, date of birth, and Massachusetts residency.

Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance spokesman Paul Diego Craney lauded the repeal campaign’s signature “milestone” in a statement Thursday as proof that “the referendum process is a viable tactic that can be used in the future to keep State House politicians accountable to the public.”