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The League of Women Voters of Metropolitan Columbus

News

Open records law turns 44 on the Fourth of July

Saturday, Jul. 3, 2010

With another Red, White and Boom behind us, you may think the celebration of our nation’s independence is over. The League of Women Voters urges you to consider other ways to commemorate the Fourth of July.

This Independence Day marks 44 years since the landmark Freedom of Information Act was signed into federal law – yet Americans are still distrustful of government. A recent Pew Research Center poll showed that only 22 percent of Americans surveyed say they can trust government in Washington “almost always or most of the time” – among the lowest ratings in the half-century since pollsters have been asking the question.

FOIA established our right to access government records and to know what our government is doing – its successes and failures. Exercising our right to know gives us – the public – power. It allows us to contribute to our government and hold government accountable. From food and transportation safety to the use and disposal of chemicals, FOIA has enabled the public to ensure the health of our democracy and our own wellbeing.

FOIA laws are only as good as we demand they be. For decades, the League of Women Voters has acted as a government watchdog at the federal, state and local levels – observing government meetings, conducting document audits and empowering citizens. The key to a healthy, open and trusted government is public participation. This FOIA anniversary, exercise your right to know by seeking records, attending a government meeting or checking out government websites.

This piece was submitted to The Columbus Dispatch, This Week Community Newspapers, and Suburban News Publications as a letter to the editor.