Washington State's Public Records Act: A Battle in the 2018 Legislature and Beyond


This case study documents the battle over the Washington State Public Records Act, which raged from 2017 through the end of 2019, reaching a crucial point through an extraordinary combination of citizen activism, journalistic pressure, and court action. The act, adopted in 1972 by a voter initiative, covers all “agencies,” but state legislators rejected the classification and refused to honor records requests. Journalists successfully challenged the Legislature in court, and in response lawmakers attempted to update the act to allow for secrecy, but failed. Lessons learned from the scuffle may be applied by legislators and transparency advocates in Washington state and throughout the country.