CENSUS 2020

Census Bureau Seeks State Data, Including Citizenship Info

Oct 14, 2019, 1:54 PM | Updated: Mar 2, 2020, 4:26 pm
U.S. Census Sample Mail Form 2020...
U.S. Census Sample Mail Form 2020

The U.S. Census Bureau is asking states for drivers’ license records that typically include citizenship data and has made a new request for information on recipients of government assistance, alarming some civil rights advocates.

The two approaches, documented by The Associated Press, come amid President Donald Trump’s efforts to make citizenship a key aspect of federal information-gathering in the run-up to the 2020 Census, despite this year’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling that a specific citizenship question can’t be included in the 2020 Census questionnaire.

Civil rights advocates worry that the wider net being cast by the Trump administration for such 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.

Experts caution that inaccuracies in state motor vehicle records also make them a poor choice for tracking citizenship, if that is the bureau’s goal.

After the Supreme Court ruling, President Donald Trump signed an executive order in July requiring the Commerce Department, which oversees the Census Bureau, to collect records on citizenship from federal agencies and increase efforts “to obtain State administrative records concerning citizenship.”

The American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators told The AP that most, if not all, states recently received requests for information including citizenship status, race, birthdates and addresses. The association has advised members to consult their privacy officers, and “each state is making their own determination how to respond,” spokeswoman Claire Jeffrey said in an email.

In Illinois, Secretary of State Jesse White denied the request.

“We, as a general rule, are not comfortable with giving out our data, certainly not in such a huge amount. That was the overriding concern,” said spokesman Dave Drucker.

Other states are weighing what to do. The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles has received the request but hasn’t responded, spokeswoman Beth Frady said.

Motor vehicle agency records are notoriously inaccurate and “bad at determining when someone is not a citizen,” said Andrea Senteno, a lawyer for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, which is challenging Trump’s executive order.

“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,” Senteno said. “They’re flying by the seat of their pants right now.”

The bureau also is seeking more state records on individual recipients of public programs. A new request published last month in the Federal Register said the records would be used for the 2020 Census and other research, and they’re needed to “improve efficiency and accuracy in our data collections, and to improve measures of the population and economy.”

The records request doesn’t explicitly ask for citizenship information, but some demographers who work with the bureau on state-level data suspect it’s responsive to the president’s executive order.

“The timing of it, and noticing in the executive order, it’s well-stated that this is going to be a push directing the Census Bureau to work on gathering these state inputs; it would lead me to believe that the two are probably connected,” said Susan Strate, senior manager of Population Estimates Program at the University of Massachusetts Donahue Institute.

States already share records on food assistance and other programs to help the bureau track traditionally undercounted populations and pinpoint vacant houses. The states’ administrative records could cover a host of topics, including citizenship, said John Thompson, a former Census Bureau director in the Obama administration.

“Here’s the confusing thing about it,” Thompson said: “They’ve already been reaching out to states. They’ve got a number of ongoing programs where they reach out to states for various data.”

States typically don’t do a good job of tracking citizenship information, said Kenneth Prewitt, a former Census Bureau director in the Clinton administration.

“People move, divorce, buy homes, pay state taxes, and these behaviors are not tied to any citizenship records,” Prewitt said.

In a statement last Thursday, the Census Bureau said it started requesting state administrative records in 2016 to help with the 2020 Census and ongoing surveys. The records include birthdates, addresses, race, Hispanic origin and citizenship status. The bureau didn’t answer why it was requesting drivers’ license information or why it had made the new request last month for state administrative records when it already receives records from states.

The bureau said the records it receives are stripped of identifiable information and used for statistical purposes only.

“Responses to all Census Bureau surveys and administrative records obtained by the Census Bureau are safe, secure and protected by law,” its statement said.

When it comes to the citizenship question, there has been a tension between Trump appointees pushing the president’s agenda and career Census Bureau workers who worried that adding a citizenship question would reduce participation and make for a less accurate 2020 headcount.

Bureau officials have said they will decide by March 31 on a methodology for tracking citizenship. The 2020 Census count officially begins the next day, on April 1.

Several civil rights organizations filed a new challenge in federal court in Maryland last month, claiming Trump’s executive order is “motivated by a racially discriminatory scheme to reduce Latino political representation” and gives an advantage to white voters at the expense of Latino voters.

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

Census 2020

Sandpoint, Idaho has seen massive growth, creating issues for the small town. Some real estate area...
NICHOLAS K. GERANIOS Associated Press

Realtors luring people to areas by political ideology, including Idaho

Sandpoint, Idaho, is a four-season resort town built along the shores of scenic Lake Pend Oreille. Its population surged by 21% in the past decade to about 8,900.
5 months ago
U.S. Census Sample Mail Form 2020...
Cary Schwanitz, KSL TV

Census Workers Hitting Streets Again, Leaving Packets At Front Door

Officials with the U.S. Census Bureau said workers will begin again the process of hand delivery for 2020 census questionnaires to Utah households.
2 years ago
KSL Investigator Matt Gephardt interviews a Sandy City resident after she received letters asking h...
Matt Gephardt, KSL TV

Gephardt: Suspicious-Looking Census Letters Prove Legitimate

The United States Census isn't until March, but some Utahns are getting census letters telling them they need to answer questions right now. A Sandy woman who got such a letter decided to give it to Gephardt to investigate.
2 years ago
...
Matt Gephardt & Cindy St. Clair, KSL TV

KSL Investigates: Keeping Your Info Safe During 2020 Census

Utah homes start receiving the U.S. Census survey in a month. Matt Gephardt investigates what questions they won’t be asking, and how to make sure it’s really a Census person at your door.
3 years ago
WASHINGTON - APRIL 01: Completed census forms are collected during an event to promote the Census (...
ASSOCIATED PRESS

Utah Lawmakers Consider Spending To Promote Census

Utah legislative leaders are considering spending up to $1 million on efforts to promote participation in the census next year.
3 years ago

Sponsored Articles

tips how to quit smoking...

7 Tips How to Quit Smoking | Quitting Smoking Might be One of the Hardest Things You Ever Do but Here’s Where You Can Start

Quitting smoking cigarettes can be incredibly difficult. Here are 7 tips how to quit smoking to help you on your quitting journey.
Photo: Storyblocks...
Blue Stakes of Utah 811

Blue Stakes of Utah 811: 5 Reasons To Call 811 Before You Dig When Working in Your Yard

Call before you dig. Even at home, you could end up with serious injuries or broken utilities just because you didn't call Blue Stakes of Utah 811.
Days of...
Days of '47 Rodeo

TRIVIA: How well do you know your rodeo? Take this quiz before you go to the Days of ’47!

The Utah Days of ’47 Rodeo presented by Zions Bank is a one-of-a-kind Gold Medal Rodeo being held July 20-23, 25 at 7:30 PM. The Days of ’47 Rodeo How well do you know your rodeo trivia? Take the quiz to test your know-all before heading out to the Days of ’47 Rodeo at the […]
cyber security through multi factor authentication setup...
Les Olson IT

How multi factor authentication setup helps companies stay safe

Multi factor authentication (MFA) setup is an important security measure that every company should implement for their workers. It’s also wise to install it for your personal and home accounts.
...
Lighting Design

Check out these stunning lamps with stained glass shades

Lamps with stained glass shades are statement pieces that are more than simply aesthetic. They also meet a functional requirement: to light up a room.
Address Bar of internet browser shows internet access...
AARP Utah

Utah voters 50+ support increased access to Internet

The AARP surveyed Utah voters aged 50 plus about internet access and if they support the expansion of broadband, especially in rural areas currently lacking it.
Census Bureau Seeks State Data, Including Citizenship Info