Survey Ranks States for Online Access to Public Information

This week, the Sunshine Week 2009 Survey of State Government Information Online published the results of its survey, which ranks state governments on the online accessibility of public records.  After compiling a list of 20 public records that are commonly useful to the general public, the surveyors (primarily reporters, editors and journalism students) used this standardized form to search government web sites in all 50 U.S. states to determine which public records are readily available online.  The findings are summarized in this table.  Some of the findings include:

  • Texas was the only state to have each of the 20 different records online; New Jersey came in second with 18 of 20.
  • Mississippi provided the fewest types of records, with only four of the 20 records accessible online.
  • Death certificates are the least available online (found in only five states) and most states charge a fee to obtain a hard copy.
  • Statewide school test scores were the only record available online in every state.

State governments are constantly updating their information online; even in the short time between the data collection and the release of the report, several states have released additional records online.  This makes the report merely a "snapshot" of what was available in early 2009, but it is useful for comparing resources in different states.  For state-by-state information and appendixes to the survey, see the Sunshine Week web site.

About Sunshine Week

March 15-21, 2009, is Sunshine Week, a national iniative to create awareness about freedom of information and the public's right to know.  Started in 2002 and led by the American Society of Newspaper Editors, Sunshine Week is funded largely by a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation of Miami.  To learn more about Sunshine Week, read here.