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Virginia driver's licenses may soon include racial and ethnic information

Lawmakers are about to consider legislation that would change what kind of information appears on Virginia driver's licenses.

Your Virginia driver's license includes your height, the color of your eyes and a fun hologram image of you on clear plastic. But it does not include your race or ethnicity. That's something state Senator Adam Ebbin of Alexandria is looking to change when the General Assembly gavels into session next year. He says the idea is to make sure data is being collected about traffic stops to prevent racial profiling.

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"Rather than have officers ask members of the public during what could be a tense time for their racial background, it would already be available to them," explains Ebbin.

Arlington County Board member Matt de Ferranti says it's an idea that has support of his local police department and his local NAACP.

"We do have two key stakeholders that don't always agree that support it," he says. "So we're pleased to be working with Senator Ebbin and others in the legislature to try and take this common sense and smart step that can help us get the good data."

Back in 2020, the new Democratic majority in the General Assembly passed a law requiring law enforcement officials to record racial and ethnic information about traffic stops. Ebbin says this change to the driver’s licenses will make that easier for officers to collect information during traffic stops.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria. He has reported for NPR, the New York Daily News and the Alexandria Gazette Packet. He has a master's degree in American Studies from Florida State University, and he is a former adjunct professor at Tallahassee Community College. He is the author of four books.