In recent years, public records requests have been on the rise. This increase in activity is driven by a number of factors, from individuals and businesses trying to access personal records to journalists investigating matters of public interest. There are numerous reasons why these requests are becoming more popular, and understanding them can help make sure that your own requests for public records are as successful as possible.
The More You Know
One factor driving up public record requests is the fact that many individuals and organizations now understand how valuable such information can be. By understanding what kinds of records are available—and how they can be retrieved—more people are taking advantage of this resource and making their own requests for information.
Increased Transparency in Government Agencies
With more emphasis being placed on transparency and accountability, governments are realizing the importance of access to records. Many jurisdictions now publish open access portals where citizens can view certain documents online or even download them directly onto their computers or smartphones.
Demand of Investigative Journalism
News outlets’ emphasis on investigative journalism has impacted public record request activity. Many journalists rely on these resources to uncover key facts about stories they’re working on, public record requests have become increasingly common in recent years.
This trend is nothing new. The figure below depicts federal FOIA requests increasing over the last decade. As demonstrated below, agencies struggle to meet this demand, with the gap widening in the last five years.
Compliance issues are driving the number of lawsuits up. In 2015, 84 suits were filed after the agency failed to respond. By 2019, this number had risen to 183 suits. Then, the pandemic hit, and many agencies were not ready to support records requests as a digital service.