There is no shortage of information out there about the 2022 Massachusetts Ballot Questions. But how can you tell which claims are true and which don't hold up?
The Center for State Policy Analysis at Tufts University — a nonpartisan research group — took up the task of evaluating statements from both sides on each of the four initiatives. Executive Director Evan Horowitz joined Adam Reilly on GBH News’ Talking Politics to share what he found on Questions 3 and 4.
Question 3 would overhaul the state’s licensing for alcohol sales, giving chain stores the ability to sell beer and wine in more locations, while putting a tighter limit on the number of locations that sell hard liquor along with wine or beer. The initiative would also ban self-check-out for alcohol purchases, raise fines for certain retailers who violate liquor laws and allow people to buy alcohol with out-of-state IDs.
This initiative comes amid an ongoing effort from both independent and chain liquor stores to update the licensing process — which Horowitz says is likely to continue, regardless of what voters decide in this election.
“Package stores, the independent liquor stores — they’re sort of behind it, because they think of it as a kind of compromise position. And the chain stores, they’re sort of against it, cause even though they might get more beer and wine licenses out of it, it’s not as many as they want, and they think they can do better,” he said. “We’re going to see this again. This is not the final word.”
At the end of the day, Horowitz explained that Question 3 is not likely to have much of an impact on consumers.
“This is not a big deal. This is not really going to change the landscape of alcohol consumption in this state or the availability of alcohol — that’s just not what this is about.”
Question 4 asks voters whether to keep or get rid of a new Massachusetts law that allows immigrants obtain a state driver’s license, regardless of their immigration status. The law, which was passed earlier this year over a veto from Governor Baker, also instructs the Registry of Motor Vehicles to set up procedures to ensure immigrants without legal status are not automatically registered to vote. A “yes” vote would uphold the law, set to go into effect in July, and a “no” vote would repeal it.
Proponents of the law argue it’s not only in the interest of those who will now be able to get a license, but that it will improve safety for everyone on the road. Horowitz says they’re right — to a degree.
“There’s some limited evidence there. So, I think you should have some reasonable expectation that there’s some improvement in safety, mostly on the reduction of things like hit and run accidents. Not because there are fewer hits, but because there are fewer runs,” he said. “You can imagine, if you get into a fender bender, you might not stick around because you don’t want to get embroiled with police, possibly deportation issues, so you take off. This could change that.”
Opponents, including the governor, argue the RMV is not set up to handle the new responsibilities and could end up making mistakes, including putting people on the voting rolls who are not legally allowed to vote. On that front, Horowitz says his center found no cause for concern, given the groups that already are eligible to drive in Massachusetts, but not to vote, like green card holders.
He did cite one cause for concern: the chances RMV staffers could make mistakes with sensitive information about people’s citizenship status.
“The RMV will have to hold and store and safeguard those records. The law requires them to,” he said. “But it’s not clear they have the systems to do that and prevent leaking of this information or subpoenaing or maybe working with a future federal administration that’s interested in tracking these people.”
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