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Legislation Needs Safeguards Written In

There is currently a bill before the NYS Senate and the NYS Assembly called the Driver’s License Access and Privacy Act or as it is more commonly known,the “Green Light Bill”.

This bill essentially will allow undocumented immigrants to get a NYS driver’s license and register to vote in NYS elections.

If this bill passes, any person, regardless of immigration status can obtain a driver’s license by showing a birth certificate or passport from any one of 195 countries around the world. This will require our DMV employees to become educated in what these documents look like. I can imagine rampant forging of these documents by those looking to make a few dollars. For years, legal New York state citizens have been required to produce six points of identification, including a Social Security card, in order to qualify for a license, but not if this bill passes. Under the new regulations an applicant does not have to produce a Social Security card but can sign a form instead stating that they do not have one.

Those in support of this bill argue that it will allow undocumented workers to legally drive to their places of employment, employment that is illegal for them to have according to the Immigration Reform and Control act. It is a federal crime to employ undocumented workers. Lost in all this discussion about driver’s licenses is the fact that these same undocumented immigrants will now be able to register to vote at the DMV because of the motor voter law. All DMVs were recently outfitted with new equipment known as a “customer facing device”. This device faces the customer and away from the DMV employee and its purpose is to allow customers applying for a license to register to vote. The screen tells the customer that they must be a U.S. citizen to register but never asks them if they are a citizen. They are asked, ‘Do you wish to register to vote“and by pushing the “yes” button they may now register to vote.

No safeguards are written into this legislation to stop this from happening. I spoke with the election commissioner and was told that since they did not produce all the necessary identification usually requested when registering to vote that they would be asked for photo ID the first time they voted. They were just issued a driver’s license with their photo on it at the DMV so this will not be a problem for them.

As an indicator that something is wrong here, the legislation requires the New York state DMV commissioner to destroy all documents associated with obtaining this license within six months and also makes it illegal for anyone to obtain these records by a FOIL request. Even a judge is precluded from requesting a group of license applications by this legislation.

As your County Clerk, I am very troubled by the possible passage of this legislation. A recent Siena poll shows that 61% of New Yorkers oppose this legislation and I would bet that it is closer to 80% in Chautauqua County. Despite this opposition there seems to be support for passage in both the Senate and Assembly. All of the county clerks in the western district have taken a stand against this legislation as well as many clerks outside of our district but the legislators do not seem to care. As hard-working taxpayers, I am asking you to take a stand with me and oppose this bill. As your County Clerk I will not allow the DMV offices to change the way we issue licenses. Those wanting a license will have to continue to show six points of identification, including a Social Security card, as we have done in the past. It is time to put on the brakes and give the red light to this bill. This legislation is not good for Chautauqua County.

Larry Barmore is Chautauqua County clerk.

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