Public Records Laws – US States

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By Theodore de Macedo Soares

First draft that will soon be updated with links to the Public Records Law (PRL) of each US state and how they apply to access to election ballots by the public.  These laws, similar to the federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) are known by varying names according to each state. For example: in New York, they are called Freedom of Information Law (FOIL), in Wisconsin and Florida they are called Public Records Law, in Michigan they are called Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

These laws are generally broad and allow any person (from any state) to request access to public records. Generally any record, except those specifically excluded by law, is open to inspection and copying. The only state, to my knowledge, that specifically excludes election ballots under their PRL is Maine (to be updated).

Making a Public Records Law request: The Student Press Law Center has provided a very good Public Records Letter Generator that generates specific information for each state. This should be the starting point for anyone making a public records request.

Ballotpedia offers in their website information on the public records laws of every state. Some of their links may be old.

Assistance in compiling information would be welcomed. If you have made public records requests, particularly (but not necessarily) associated with election related materials, please recount your experiences below and or through the contact form page in this site. Relevant case law from various states  as well as the contact information of the agency responsible for election materials in the various states/counties would also be helpful to others.

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