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Trump Administration Is Attempting To Violate State Laws By Requesting Driver’s License Information

There is growing concern about Trump administration’s latest efforts to collect citizenship data based on state driver’s license and ID records. After President Trump signed an executive order, it was announced back in July that the U.S. Census Bureau would be collecting five years’ worth of data, including driver’s license records, provided by state motor vehicle agencies with the agreement that the information would be kept confidential. These efforts have been stalled mostly due to the fact that states have either refused to supply the data or haven’t decided what to do yet. 

According to an AP survey of 50 states, as of now there are 13 states that have refused to share data, 17 are weighing options and another 17 have yet to receive a request. Three states didn’t respond to the AP poll. The states that have yet to respond are still researching the legal and privacy implications if they did comply with the data requests.  

What is the biggest concern for many states and activist groups is what the Trump administration will be doing with the gathered information and if it will be used to harm the political power of minorities.

These data efforts began shortly after the Supreme Court stopped the Trump administration’s lengthy battle to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census back in July.

Credit: @timelywriter / Twitter

The goal of these efforts is to supply information for the Trump administration to better enforce the Voting Rights Act. Yet there are questions about the reliability of using data mostly from state driver’s license records. Various civil rights organizations say using this information to base citizenship data off could result in inaccurate findings and could violate the rights of minorities and immigrants.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has already urged states to turn down the Census Bureau data requests. The organization says that these data requests are part of a plan to lessen the political power of minority groups when it comes to voting. By states being encouraged to use counts of citizens only as opposed to the total population, it can drastically change state and local electoral districts elections.

“This endeavor appears to be part of a scheme motivated by an unconstitutional discriminatory purpose to dilute the political power of communities of color. In addition, efforts to rely on citizenship data in DMV files have previously been highly unreliable due to poor database protocols and stale citizenship data,” Dale Ho, a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union, said in a press release. “The Census Bureau should drop this latest distraction and instead focus on the important work of ensuring a full and accurate count.”

Civil rights groups have already taken legal action against the Trump administration to stop it from using government records to compile citizenship information. 

Credit: @democracynow / Twitter

Just last month, Latino community groups in Texas and Arizona filed a federal lawsuit against the Trump administration to stop it from using government records to compile citizenship information. The groups, represented by attorneys with the Mexican American Legal Defense (MALDEF) and the Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAJC), argue that basing citizenship data off of government records will only harm minority communities when it comes to using their political power.

“The Census Bureau usually plans for these types of big changes in their operations many, many years in advance, but they don’t have enough time right now to actually plan and provide clear information to the public about how they are going to use these administrative records,” Andrea Senteno, a lawyer for MALDEF, told the AP. “They know that many people who don’t respond are going to be communities of color.”

The data requests have also raised questions from both sides of the political aisle who are asking about privacy implications.

 Credit: @mherz67 / Twitter

The Census Bureau is already facing roadblocks from both Republican and Democratic states who have begun denying requests mainly due to state laws and privacy implications. 

In Utah, state officials said no the requests citing personal data can only be shared only for public safety reasons. Even in Arkansas, there has been no response to the requests as the state decides what to do.  “We are currently working to determine whether the requested information is eligible for release,” Scott Hardin, a spokesman for the Arkansas agency, said. 

It’s going to be interesting to see how other states respond or don’t respond at all to these data requests over the next few months. The Trump administration hopes to compile this information to release for state redistricting in 2021.

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