Awaiting a FOIA response? Don’t hold your breath

At a time where information is supposed to be easier than ever to access, public records success still requires a lot of patience and a bit of luck

Written by Anais Vaillant
Edited by Michael Morisy

At a time where information is supposed to be easier than ever to access, public records success still requires a lot of patience and a bit of luck.

A look at 907 requests completed by MuckRock users found only about 42 percent of federal Freedom of Information Act requests are completed on time and 27 percent are still without response the first three months.

Many state and local agencies aren’t much better, although varying in the amount of time they are expected to respond. For example, Massachusetts has ten days to respond while New York has five.

The graph above shows the 907 completed requests from both federal and state agencies and gives a closer look at what to expect when sending a response.

The good news is the size of the document does not effect the amount of time it takes. So if you’re curious for a 900-something page document, you could get it in a few days or be the unfortunate 5 percent who have to wait a year.

For a more in-depth look at the completion time for the ten most popular agencies as well as the size of the documents, scroll over the spreadsheet below.


Image via Wikimedia Commons