Maine officials say they won’t provide driver’s license information, including citizenship status, to federal officials looking to include the data in the 2020 census.

The U.S. Census Bureau last month asked officials in all 50 states to provide information from driver’s license databases, including the citizenship status of license and state identification cardholders. The email from the bureau to Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap said the information request is one of “several initiatives towards the Census Bureau’s goals for increasing the accuracy of the decennial count” as well as other research projects.

In late September, the state turned down the request. As of Monday, Illinois also had denied the request and the other states were trying to decide what to do.

Maine doesn’t provide bulk data that includes personally identifying information and lacks the capacity for the monthly reports requested, Patty Morneault, the deputy secretary of state for the Bureau of Motor Vehicles, told Census officials.

Critics of the Trump administration said the request to state motor vehicle departments is an attempt to include citizenship as a key aspect of federal information-gathering in the run-up to the 2020 Census. The Supreme Court ruled this year that a specific question regarding citizenship can’t be included in the 2020 Census questionnaire. Some worried that a citizenship question could lead to an undercount in the Census because of concerns in some households over acknowledging that a noncitizen lives in the home.

There are federal and state laws that protect information provided for driver’s licenses, said Kristen Muszynski, spokeswoman for the secretary of state’s office, and Morneault’s response to the Census Bureau referenced the state law. Her email said the bureau saw its duty as serving Mainers looking to get driver’s licenses and providing information to law enforcement seeking to enforce motor vehicle laws.


The rejection of the bureau’s request, Morneault said, adhered to Maine law “and the sacred trust of the citizens of Maine.”

Dunlap has butted heads with the Trump administration before. He was appointed to a presidential commission on voter integrity, formed after Trump claimed, with no evidence, that millions of people who were ineligible to vote cast ballots in the 2016 presidential election, costing him a win in the popular vote.

Before the commission was disbanded, it gathered voter registration data from some states, but refused to turn it over to Dunlap. A federal court subsequently ruled that Dunlap was entitled to the data as a member of the commission.

Civil rights advocates worry that the wider net being cast by the Trump administration for citizenship information could chill Latino participation in the population count, which will determine how many congressional seats each state gets and guide the allocation of hundreds of billions of dollars of federal funding. The results of the 2020 Census also will be used to redraw state and local electoral maps.

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