The U.S. Census Bureau has asked Pennsylvania and other states to voluntarily turn over driver’s license information, as part of the Trump Administration’s efforts to compile citizenship status and other detailed data about people living in the country. But the state has not indicated whether it will comply.
The Census Bureau request followed a U.S. Supreme Court decision that prohibited the 2020 Census from including a formal citizenship question. President Trump’s July executive order asked for assistance from “all executive departments and agencies” to help the agency compile accurate citizenship data by other means.
“The U.S. Census Bureau has reached out to PennDOT and has asked whether we can share driver’s licensing information with them,” said Pennsylvania Department of Transportation press secretary Alexis Campbell confirmed in a statement.
“We are carefully reviewing their request to fully understand the scope of the potential response,” she said. “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 or is not in the best interest of the citizens of the commonwealth.”
In a statement this week, the Census Bureau said data sharing between state and federal agencies is routine, citing examples like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program.
“When the Census Bureau receives the records, they are stripped of all personal identifiable information and are used for statistical purposes,” the statement read. “By law, the Census Bureau does not share any data protected under Title 13 with the states or share personally identifiable information with any government or law enforcement agencies.”
Critics of the administration's push to add a citizenship question to the Census said it would discourage certain populations from responding to the survey. That could lead to undercounting the population in communities with large immigrant populations, a phenomenon which could affect how many Congresional seats a state gets, and how the boundaries for those seats are drawn. There are similar misgivings about the request for driver's license information.
In Pennsylvania, Campbell said that people who are not U.S. citizens but are in the state legally can apply for driver’s licenses, though they are required to produce different proof-of-identity documents: The state does not grant driver’s licenses to undocumented people, Campbell said.