The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA, pronounced "FOYA") has created the springboard for residents to request data from any level of government. Not all documentation can be disclosed with the public, but FOIA Requests are the place to start.
Sure! This is especially important for records which aren't published online.
If you have successfully made a FOIA request through a service like Muckrock (or put the results online in some other way), the URL of the completed request is a valuable data source. Submit it here, and the community will thank you!
- Call in advance. Tell the human on the other end what you plan to request and ask them if they have guidance for making the request as easy as possible for them to grant.
- Find out what they call the record you're looking for. Requesting the name of a specfic, existing table will make everyone's life easier.
- If you develop a relationship with the agency, you may be able to informally request and access the records without a FOIA process.
- Check for "required" forms. Technically, you shouldn't need anything but the request—but complying with these "requirements" is a good way to make sure your request is granted.
- Include a line that if any part of the request is denied, they should proceed with the rest of it.
- Include a line that if any part of the request is denied, they should cite the provisions in the state that allow them to deny the request.