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You Can Hold Government Accountable. Here’s How.

June 23, 2022

Whether it’s parents trying to find out what their children are learning in public schools or citizen watchdogs exposing corruption, Americans have a right to know what their government is up to. Public records laws give us the power to find out. Now, thanks to the Goldwater Institute’s OpenMyGovernment.org project, citizens can learn how to hold public officials accountable.

Through Goldwater’s all-new OpenMyGovernment.org website and its Open My Government: A Citizens Guide to Public Records Requests, citizens can access a comprehensive, step-by-step, and state-by-state guide that outlines best practices for drafting well-defined requests for public information that are tailored to each state’s unique public records law.

Too often, government entities try to hide information from citizens seeking answers or bait them into giving up on their request by charging outrageous public records fees. That’s why it’s imperative that Americans file their initial requests correctly, and Goldwater’s new 50-state public records guide equips citizens to do just that.

Our new guide answers the following questions for each state:

  • What is a public record? The definition of a public record and any exemptions to disclosure can depend on the state. That’s why the Open My Government guide breaks down the public records laws for every state, so that citizens know exactly what sort of information they have a legal right to obtain.
  • Who can file a public records request? How do you draft a public records request? State public records laws are strong tools available to all citizens to ensure open government. The guide includes a public records request template that shows what specific information needs to be included in a request.
  • And more… costs, response timelines, enforcement… Many states charge fees for citizens to access public documents. However, most states require government agencies to respond to or at least acknowledge a public records request within a specified timeframe—and if the agency refuses to comply, there are legal steps citizens can take to challenge their actions.

 The Goldwater Institute is a nationwide leader in protecting Americans’ right to hold government accountable. In Rhode Island,  Goldwater is helping Rhode Island mom Nicole Solas, who was told by her school district that it would cost $74,000 to see her daughter’s kindergarten curriculum. And Goldwater successfully stood up for the First Amendment rights of Debra Tisler and Callie Oettinger, two Virginia moms who were sued by their school district after they posted online legally obtained public records.

Open and transparent government is fundamental to our constitutional republic. Goldwater’s new guide arms citizens with the knowledge they need to shine a light on public information and keep government accountable.

You can check out OpenMyGovernment.org here, and you can read a PDF version of our new guide here. If you have questions about this guide or your right to public information, please contact the Goldwater Institute at openmygovernment@goldwaterinstitute.org. Litigators interested in defending citizens’ right to public information can apply to join Goldwater’s American Freedom Network of pro bono attorneys here

 

 

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