Since the late 1990s, news organizations and advocacy groups have put their state public records laws to the test.
Each study sought different records from a variety of agencies, but most found that government agencies failed to comply with requests for even the most basic records. Law enforcement often put up the biggest barrier to records access.
Arizona,2002 Open & Shut
Auditors checked for records at schools, jails, law enforcement offices and planning offices. Police refused requests nearly half the time.
Arkansas, 1999 Unlocking the Public's Business
Participants found that compliance with records requests ranged from 50 percent at health offices to 86 percent at city offices.
California, 2002 For the Record ..
Out of 46 requests to schools and city and county agencies, 19 government agencies complied with requests.
California, 2002 Public Records Denied
Reporters surveyed 25 agencies in five counties. They found that 53 percent of the agencies complied.
Colorado, 2000 Your Right to Know
In all 63 counties auditors found that local government agencies failed to comply with state public records law a third of the time.
Connecticut, 1999 Access to Public Records Survey
Results revealed a 22 percent compliance rate.
Georgia, 1999 Georgia's Right to Know
Auditors found that 44 percent of law enforcement offices and schools complied, while cities, counties and universities complied 90 percent of the time.
Illinois, 1999 Your Records, Their Rules
Audit results show that records were denied one out of four times. Arrest records were most often denied.
Indiana, 1997 Open Records, Closed Doors
Reporters tested compliance in all 92 counties. Sixty-six sheriffs refused to release crime reports.
Iowa, 2000 Open Records Survey
Reporters sought meeting minutes and police logs. Most agencies complied. The study also found excessive copying fees.
Kansas, 1999 Kansas Public Access Project
The survey showed requests were granted 84 percent of the time. In most cases, sheriffs offices refused to provide requested records.
Maryland, 2000 Access Maryland
Auditors obtained records such as school superintendent contracts, sheriffs' expenses and nursing home inspections one out of four times.
Massachusetts, 2001 Access Denied
Reporters were denied access to records three times out of four in 37 cities checked.
Minnesota, 2000 Freedom of Information Audit
Jail records, superintendent records and city council minutes were sought from agencies. Auditors succeeded 70 percent of the time.
Mississippi, 2000 Mississippi Access
Fewer than half the 38 sheriffs complied with requests for jail dockets and arrest records. …