In an attempt to run around a Supreme Court ruling, the federal government through the U.S. Census Bureau is asking states, including Pennsylvania, for driver’s license records which traditionally include citizenship data.
The Daily Item strongly encourages and urges Gov. Tom Wolf and his administration to stand tall and deny the request, as they have done previously when federal officials sought personal information out of their purview.
This request for driver’s license data comes months after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Trump administration could not include a citizenship question with the 2020 Census. In July, a month after the high court’s ruling, President Donald Trump signed an executive order requiring the Commerce Department to collect records on citizenship from federal agencies and increase efforts “to obtain state administrative records concerning citizenship.” That collection included driver’s license records.
State officials and the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation have requested a meeting with federal leaders to find out exactly what records they want. “The U.S. Census Bureau has reached out to PennDOT and has asked whether we can share driver’s licensing information with them,” PennDOT spokeswoman Alexis Campbell said. “We are meeting with them to discuss their request and to better understand the scope of what they are requesting. We take our legal responsibility under federal and state law to protect driver licensing information very seriously. We would not provide access to driver information that would compromise that responsibility.”
This pivot is another power grab from the federal government to find a way to get a citizenship question into the Census database, even though the Supreme Court has ruled that it can’t.
Immigration advocates and others strongly object to the citizenship question. The Pennsylvania Immigration and Citizenship Coalition, a Philadelphia-based group that lobbies on behalf of migrants, argues against coming to the states to collect information.
In 2017, Gov. Wolf strongly shot down a federal request for personal information on the state’s registered voters. At that time, the Trump administration wanted the records to curtail the false narrative of “widespread voter fraud,” in Pennsylvania and sought data that included Social Security numbers, birth dates and driver license numbers.
“The commonwealth cannot share this information,” the governor wrote simply.
We expect state officials to have a similar message this time.
NOTE: Opinions expressed in The Daily Item’s editorials are the consensus of the publisher and top newsroom executives. Today’s was written by Managing Editor Bill Bowman.