Re: What should be in a good open records law?

From: Arthur Keller <voting_at_kellers_dot_org>
Date: Sun Aug 05 2007 - 12:25:53 CDT

Bev Harris has a good list. Here is a summary of conversations I've
had with her by email. I apologize to Bev if I am using her material
inappropriately or incorrectly.

Add consequences like Washington and Colorado.

When getting into specific language, there actually are public records laws in
various states that can be referred to for specimen language.

While none address the timelines factor, and none address the usability (data
compilation so it isn't parsed into a million fragments, like some vendors are
doing), several of the other issues are addressed here and there. Specifically:

Look to language in the West Virginia public records laws for a nice preamble
paragraph putting a frame around citizens right to know

Look to language in the Arkansas public records laws for a fascinating section
that opens up private companies to freedom of information if they receive
public funding (but that should be defined to say if they receive a significant
portion of their funding from public funds, with a stipulation that this can
apply to a division, if the company is large but has one division doing the
voting stuff.

Look to language in North Carolina and Ohio public records laws for language
that makes it affordable. The key to this is (1) not to allow labor charges and
(2) actual costs of materials only (in other words, you can't build labor costs
or surcharges into copy costs.

Look to language in Wisconsin for very good right of access, or right to
observe, for all citizens -- that's in their elections code, not their public
records code.

Also, to make records affordable, Arkansas and several other states make it
possible to demand electronic form. Arkansas language: A citizen may request a
copy of a public record in any medium in which the record is readily available
or in any format to which it is readily convertible with the custodian's
existing software

Specifically for elections, I wrote the following:

   (g) Citizens of California shall have access to other elections
        (1) All information necessary to validate elections must be produced
by the voting system and its accompanying elections procedures;
       (2) When information to validate the election is requested, it must be
provided before recount and contest periods have expired;
       (3) The information must be provided in a usable and cost-effective
       (4) There will be no restrictions imposed by proprietary claims, nor
shall access to information be exclusively placed outside of governmental
       (5) Validating information must include proof that hardware and
software certified for use is the same claimed to have been used.

Best regards,

At 9:33 AM -0700 8/5/07, Richard C. Johnson wrote:
>Improvement would depend on what features of law now keep the public
>from seeing the GEMS records of elections. Otherwise, a general
>change may not disturb the bureaucrat who now keeps the public at
>-- Dick Johnson
>Stephanie Frank Singer <> wrote:
>Here in PA the legislature is in the process of improving our open
>records law. This law will not address elections in particular, but
>its general language about open records will affect our ability to
>get information about the conduct of elections, particularly
>elections conducted on paperless DRE's.
>Can anyone suggest language that would ensure (without specifically
>mentioning elections) that we can get Diebold GEMS records and other
>useful computer-generated traces of election conduct?
>Stephanie Singer
>Stephanie Frank Singer, Ph.D.
>Campaign Scientific

Arthur M. Keller, Ph.D., 3881 Corina Way, Palo Alto, CA  94303-4507
tel +1(650)424-0202, fax +1(650)424-0424

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Received on Fri Aug 31 23:17:04 2007

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