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Voters weigh ballot measures on driver’s licenses, dental insurance, alcohol licenses

Question 4, pushed by a GOP-led group largely funded by auto parts executive and GOP activist Rick Green, centers on an existing law that would go into effect next summer, if voters uphold it. The law allows people without legal immigration status to obtain a driver’s license by providing two documents that prove their identity, such as a foreign passport, birth certificate or marriage certificate.

With hours to go until the polls closed, Tom Smith with Neighbors United for a Better East Boston knocked on doors asking people to vote yes on Questions 1 and 4.Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

The law, passed earlier this year over the objections of Gov. Charlie Baker, was supported by immigrant rights groups, insurance companies, the attorney general, the majority of state sheriffs and district attorneys, and the Massachusetts state capital. representing cities with more than 40,000 inhabitants.

It was enacted in June after Massachusetts lawmakers voted to override a veto by Baker, who said the proposal could threaten election security, among other things.

Under the new law, the state is required to ensure that people who do not have proof of legal residency are not automatically registered to vote under the state law that registers those seeking driver’s licenses and who are eligible to vote.

The idea, the subject of heated debate for years, would affect many of the estimated quarter million undocumented people who live in Massachusetts — and, its supporters claim, the millions of drivers with whom they share the roads. Critics say it rewards people who break the law by living in the country without legal status and encourages others to do the same.

Also Tuesday, voters will decide whether dental insurers must spend at least 83 percent of insurance premiums on patient care rather than on administrative costs. Question 2 states that if insurers do not spend enough to meet the threshold, they will have to return the money to Massachusetts patients via rebates.

There is no minimum threshold currently imposed on the industry.

The ballot measure is backed by dentists and opposed by insurance companies, which say insurance premiums will rise if it passes. They say insurers will still have largely the same administrative costs as before, but will now only be allowed to use 17 percent of the premium they collect to pay for them.

Supporters argue that dental insurance should have minimum requirements on how much to spend on patient care, similar to those already imposed on other health insurance providers. Under state law, medical insurers in Massachusetts must spend 88 percent of the premiums they collect on patient care.

Meanwhile, voters will decide on Question 3 whether the state should gradually increase the number of places where a single company can sell beer or wine from nine to 18. A change in the law would also lower the limit on all-alcohol licences, or the number of places a company can sell hard alcohol, from nine to seven. The proposal includes a grandfather clause for any company that already holds eight or nine alcohol licences.

A “yes” vote would also require retailers to accept out-of-state driver’s licenses, ban alcohol sales through self-checkout kiosks and change the formula for calculating fines for stores that sell to minors or intoxicated people.

A sign in front of a store in Newton about Question 3 on the ballot.
Suzanne Kreiter/Globe Staff

The ballot measure is not the first time such an issue has come up. In 2011, small independent liquor stores and larger retail chains worked out a compromise in the state legislature that gradually increased the limit on liquor licenses from three to nine. In 2019, the convenience store chain Cumberland Farms announced plans for a ballot measure that would lift the limit on alcohol licenses entirely for grocery stores like theirs.

In response, Massachusetts Package Stores Association came up with a compromise in the form of the current ballot initiative.

MassPack argues this ballot measure will expand convenience for consumers because retailers will be able to apply for additional licenses for their existing locations that do not currently sell alcohol or for any new locations. Cumberland Farms has not been active in opposing Question 3, but retail giant Total Wine & More has funded a campaign to oppose it, arguing that the ballot question is an attempt to stifle competition.

Sahar Fatima of the Globe staff contributed to this report.


Samantha J. Gross can be reached at samantha.gross@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @samanthajgross.

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