Requesting Information Procedure
Citizens Oversight (2016-08-08) Ray Lutz
This Page: http://www.copswiki.org/Common/RequestingInformationProcedure
This is a general procedure for requesting information from governmental officials and more specifically, from elections officials.
Public Records Request
Most states have a public records act, which acknowledges that the records maintained by our government are owned by the public, and the public has access to those records. The tricky part is knowing what records to request, and requesting them in such a way that you will get results.
- California: Called the California Public Records Act (CPRA), they are only required to provide records that already exist, and are not part of litigation, personnel records, and other exemptions. Furthermore, California has a state constitutional provision, Article 1, Section 3 b
ARTICLE 1 DECLARATION OF RIGHTS
SEC. 3. (b) (1) The people have the right of access to information
concerning the conduct of the people's business, and, therefore, the
meetings of public bodies and the writings of public officials and
agencies shall be open to public scrutiny.
(2) A statute, court rule, or other authority, including those in
effect on the effective date of this subdivision, shall be broadly
construed if it furthers the people's right of access, and narrowly
construed if it limits the right of access. A statute, court rule, or
other authority adopted after the effective date of this subdivision
that limits the right of access shall be adopted with findings
demonstrating the interest protected by the limitation and the need
for protecting that interest.
Voters Bill of Rights
Many states have a "Voter's Bill of Rights". You will want to acquaint yourself with these additional rights. The exact provision will vary state-by-state.
- Californa: Elections Code section 2300(9). States that :
(9) (A) You have the right to ask questions about election procedures and observe the election process.
(B) You have the right to ask questions of the precinct board and elections officials regarding election procedures and to receive an answer or be directed to the appropriate official for an answer. However, if persistent questioning disrupts the execution of their duties, the board or election officials may discontinue responding to questions.
For California, we recommend the following text. Modify accordingly for other states.
Please immediately acknowledge this email letter by return email.
The following request is made under the California Public Records Act (CPRA) and the California State Constitution, Article Sec 3(b), and the California Election Code, Section 2300 (9).
Please provide the following information. If existing public records exist, please provide in electronic form. If no records exist, please answer the question, and explain your answer. If you intend to provide the documents for inspection, please list which documents exist and why they cannot be provided in electronic form.
1. Here is my first question, etc.
We recommend that you:
- Email to the official in question.
- If they are new to your requests or do not immediately confirm reception, then print two copies, and hand-carry them to the office. Have the receptionist time/date stamp both, and you take one copy to prove you submitted it. This is faster, cheaper and better than certified mail, but it does require a personal visit.