BOSTON (SHNS) – 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. But Secretary of State Bill Galvin’s office contested that Thursday and said the signatures were “probably not” all actually filed yet.
“[Wednesday], we were informed by the secretary of state’s office that we had … that the number of qualified signatures we have on file with the secretary of state’s office exceeds the number that we need for ballot access,” Wendy Wakeman, administrator of the Fair And Secure Massachusetts committee, told the News Service on Thursday. The number necessary for ballot access is 40,120.
But Galvin spokeswoman Deb O’Malley drew a distinction and said that isn’t what the secretary’s office told the campaign.
Using a statewide voter database, the secretary’s office 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 campaign called Wednesday and was told the statewide total of signatures on file in clerks’ offices around the state. That number was indeed “more than the 40,000 they needed,” the secretary of state’s office spokeswoman said, but they were “not physically here.”
O’Malley told the News Service that 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 Aug. 24, then handed over to Galvin’s office by Sept. 7.
Wakeman said the committee’s goal is 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.”
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.”
“The next time State House leaders decide to pass a bill into law that is rushed through and without any support from the opposing minority party, they will have to consider that this effort can be replicated and their actions can be held accountable to voters of Massachusetts,” Craney wrote.
Wakeman said there was a “little celebration” in her office Wednesday including some champagne.