Sunshine Week Analysis

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The 2009 annual Sunshine Week survey of government information available online is in and the results are interesting. Results were based on reviews of government web sites in every state to determine the availability of 20 different kinds of public records. The public record types researched include disciplinary actions against attorneys and doctors, inspection reports of bridges, schools, school buses, hospitals, nursing homes and child care centers, financial disclosure information including audits, project expenditures and campaign finance, as well as death certificates.

The survey found that death certificates were the least likely type of record to be found online and that, in addition, many states charge fees to access these death records. Of the document types reviewed, the records that were most often found online include statewide school test scores, DOT projects and campaign data. Texas was the only state to have all 20 types of records available online, with New Jersey coming in second with 18. Mississippi’s results show it to be the state with the least information available online.

States also differed in the presentation of public records – some provide direct information on their own web sites, while others provide links to other resources, the ease of access of which varies tremendously. States continue to provide more information online and the legislatures and general public continue to demand this type of access to what are, after all, public records. There remains much work to be done in the field of accessing government records, but we here at the Public Records Directory, strive to make the available data accessible to all in as useful a manner as possible.

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