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Free Government Information (FGI) is a place for initiating dialogue and building consensus among the various players (libraries, government agencies, non-profit organizations, researchers, journalists, etc.) who have a stake in the preservation of and perpetual free access to government information. FGI promotes free government information through collaboration, education, advocacy and research.

GAO Report: Voter ID laws reduce turnout more among African American and younger voters

A new report just released by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) entitled “ELECTIONS: Issues Related to State Voter Identification Laws” (GAO-14-634) found that requiring voters to have special ID in order to vote makes voter turnout go down and this disproportionally effects young and minority voters. And you wonder why republicans in states like Wisconsin, North Carolina, Texas, Kansas, Tennessee, and Pennsylvania are instituting restrictive voter ID laws — Since the 2010 election, new voting restrictions are slated to be in place in 22 states according to the Brennan Center for Justice report “The State of Voting in 2014.” Rachel Maddow explains (watch the whole segment including the clip of Lewis Black ACLU ad on voter suppression). As Lewis Black says, “Elected officials shouldn’t get to choose who gets to choose elected officials!”

Laws requiring voters to show identification when they cast a ballot have a greater impact on African Americans and younger voters than on other racial and age groups, according to a new analysis.

The report, issued Wednesday by the General Accounting Office, found that fewer African Americans have the types of identification — like a driver’s license or state-issued identification card — required to obtain a ballot than whites. As a consequence, turnout among African American voters fell by a larger percent than turnout among white voters in two states that implemented identification requirements between 2008 and 2012.

Black turnout dropped by 3.7 percentage points more than white turnout in Kansas, and by 1.5 percentage points more than whites in Tennessee after voter ID laws passed. Among 18 year olds, turnout dropped by 7.1 percentage points more in Kansas than it did among those aged 44 to 53 year-olds in Kansas. Turnout in Tennessee fell by 1.2 percentage points more among those aged 19 to 23 than among the older set.

via Report: Voter ID laws reduce turnout more among African American and younger voters – The Washington Post.

S. 2206 set to eliminate NTIS: fundamentally misunderstands the Internet @TomCoburn @McCaskillOffice

While I’m all for “streamlining the collection and distribution of government information” as the title of S. 2206 “Let Me Google That For You Act” and it’s companion House bill H. R. 4382, doing away with the National Technical Information Service will do the opposite of that.

As we noted in our analysis of the GAO’s 2012 NTIS report and in our post in January 2014 when Senator Tom Coburn first floated the idea of getting rid of NTIS, Senator Coburn — and now Senator McCaskill along with him — “fundamentally misunderstands the Internet and misrepresents the case by stating that “elsewhere” to him is google and usa.gov, *internet search engines*! Doesn’t he realize that Google and USA.gov are simply pointing to NTIS, so if NTIS goes away, the reports that his staff found there will go away too.” Additionally, Federal agencies — not to mention the public! — sometimes need to pay for these reports because they’re copyrighted!

NTIS operates on a cost recovery basis because CONGRESS created it that way. It should also be noted that GAO’s conclusions — along with NTIS comments about the conclusions — are that 1) first and foremost, NTIS offers a valuable service of access to the federal scientific literature but 2) their current fee-based cost-recovery model is not sustainable. GAO did NOT conclude that NTIS should be dismantled.

As we said in our original analysis of the GAO report, We’ve got some better suggestions for how to handle critical technical reports published by the Federal government:

  1. FUND NTIS so they don’t have to work on a cost-recovery basis.
  2. put NTIS under the umbrella of the OSTP directive on public access to federally funded research.
  3. Make technical reports OPEN ACCESS!
  4. Institute a digital preservation plan for NTIS reports so that NTIS not only streamlines access, but assures their LONG-TERM preservation and access.
  5. Distribute NTIS metadata so that technical reports can be more easily found (another goal of this legislation!)
  6. Partner with FDLP libraries for long-term preservation and widespread access!

If you agree, please write to Senators Coburn and McCaskill and let them know how they can help assure public access and preservation of valuable scientific information!

S. 2206, the Let Me Google That For You Act, would eliminate the National Technical Information Service (NTIS), which is charged with trying to sell government report that are available online for free.

“This is the ‘let me Google that for you’ office of the federal government,” Coburn said. “Nearly all of the reports being sold are already available for free on other government websites, including my own.”

The senators cited a Government Accountability Office report saying the NTIS has lost at least $1.3 million during the last decade and runs a deficit on its document production.

“This agency has clearly outlived its usefulness,” McCaskill said. “I find it staggering that the agency is selling government reports both to the public and to other federal agencies that are widely available for free and easy to find with a simple Google search — and the agency is still losing money.”

McCaskill and Coburn said it should be a top priority for Congress to reduce spending and eliminate the unnecessary agency.

via Senate bill eliminates agency that sells free reports | TheHill.

The Government Makes the Internet Better

Kevin Taglang of the Benton Foundation outlines the findings of a recent GAO report, Federal Broadband Deployment Programs and Small Business, and concludes that The Government Makes the Internet Better.

  • The Government Makes the Internet Better, by Kevin Taglang, Benton Foundation Blog (March 14, 2014)

    Although it did not garner much coverage, an independent, nonpartisan analysis of federal funding for broadband infrastructure and the existence of municipally operated networks finds that both have resulted in improvements in U.S. broadband service.

  • Federal Broadband Deployment Programs and Small Business, GAO-14-203: (Published: Feb 7, 2014. Publicly Released: Mar 10, 2014). full report [pdf].

    Improvements to broadband service have resulted from federal funding and the existence of municipally operated networks. Service providers have used federal funding for expansions and upgrades, such as building out to previously unserved areas and replacing old copper lines with fiber optic cable, resulting in faster and more reliable broadband connections. GAO examined broadband services for 14 federally funded and municipal networks and found they tended to have higher speeds than other networks.

Senator Whitehouse: Climate Change on GAO High Risk List

This week in his weekly Time to Wake Up speech, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) speaks about climate change making the Government Accountability Office’s (GAO) High Risk List for the first time this year. GAO’s High Risk List is published every two years at the start of every new Congress since 1990. GAO “calls attention to agencies and program areas that are high risk due to their vulnerabilities to fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement, or are most in need of transformation.”

“According to GAO, and I’ll quote again, “The nation’s vulnerability can be reduced by limiting the magnitude of climate change through actions to limit greenhouse gas emissions. . . . While implementing adaptive measures may be costly, [GAO continues] there is a growing recognition that the cost of inaction could be greater and—given the government’s precarious fiscal position—increasingly difficult to manage given expected budget pressures.”’

“Mr. President, Congress has been asleep long enough. We have a tradition in this body of taking the accounting of GAO, our non-partisan watchdog, seriously, and of taking GAO’s High Risk List seriously. GAO now joins our defense and intelligence communities, our scientific research communities, and our state and local governments, and major sectors of private industry, who have all elevated climate change from their “to-do” list to their “must-do” list. Mr. President, it is time for Congress to wake up to its duties, and to get to work.”

GAO launches Key Issues web site

The Government Accountability Office has launched a new Key Issues web site that highlights and groups GAO reports on critical issues.

Hat tip to infoDOCKET!