The following questions and answers are designed to assist you in obtaining information from the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) and the Office of Inspector General (OIG) under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). A complete copy of the EAC’s FOIA regulations can be located at 11 CFR Part 9405.
How do I obtain information routinely available to the public?
A great deal of information is available to the public without filing a FOIA request. Examples are EAC policies, procedures, and advisory opinions as well as reports issued by the EAC and the Office of Inspector General. Many items are available electronically on the EAC’s web site. If you are not sure where to begin your search, contact the EAC’s FOIA liaison:
EAC Chief FOIA Officer, 1201 New York Ave., NW, Suite 300, Washington, DC 20005, 202-566-3100
Will the EAC accept written requests, including fax or e-mail, for routinely available information?
Yes. Although a request for this type of information is not a FOIA request, the EAC will send you the requested information and charge you for the copies, according to the fee schedule in 11 CFR 9405.9 – 9405.12.
Can I request records under the FOIA over the telephone?
No. A request for documents under the FOIA must be in writing. You may submit a request through the postal mail, by email, by fax or via electronic mail. Additionally, if you modify your request, you must verify the change in writing to the appropriate FOIA office processing the request. Otherwise, processing will not begin.
What do I need to know about the records I am requesting in my FOIA request?
In order for a record to be considered subject to your FOIA request, it must be in the EAC’s possession and control at the time the EAC begins its search for responsive records. There is no obligation for the EAC to create or compile a record to satisfy a FOIA request (for example, by combining or compiling selected items from manual files, preparing a new computer program, calculating proportions, percentages, frequency distributions, trends and comparisons, or creating maps).
What information do I need to include in my FOIA request?
A description of the records
Where you believe the records are located (if possible)
A statement of your willingness to pay fees or a complete fee waiver justification
Your fee category, i.e., commercial use; scientific/educational; news media or other
Your postal address (this IS REQUIRED in order to mail documents to you)
If you are filing a Privacy Act request, include a written authorization signed by:
You (if this is a first party request)
The individual to whom the records are about (if you are requesting the records on behalf of someone)
Legal representation of the individual to whom the records are about
You should also provide any additional information required in the Privacy Act System of Records Notice.
In what form or format will the records be sent to me?
Generally, you may choose the form or format of disclosure for records. The EAC must provide the record(s) in the requested form/format if the office responding to the request can readily reproduce the record in that form/format with reasonable efforts. Applicable FOIA fees will apply regardless of the format.
Where do I send my request?
Submit your request in writing through postal mail, email, or fax to the EAC’s Chief FOIA Officer, 1201 New York Ave., NW, Suite 300, Washington, DC 20005.
How long will it take to receive a response to my request?
When your request is received by the appropriate office, it will be given a processing number. At that time, the FOIA officer will determine whether your request is "perfected," meaning that the request addresses and complies with the EAC’s requirements under the FOIA. The EAC will send an acknowledgement providing you with the processing or reference number.
Ordinarily, the EAC has 20 workdays from the date of receipt to respond to your request. If you have not received a response within 20 workdays or 30 workdays if an extension has been taken (be sure to allow for mailing time), you may contact the EAC FOIA Office to ask about the delay. You should contact the person listed in the acknowledgement letter as the point of contact for your request to check the status.
Please note these time limits do not apply to requests for expedited processing.
The 20 workday time limit begins to run when a request complying with the procedures in 11 CFR §§ 9405.7, is received by the FOIA contact at the office that has the records you are seeking and all issues regarding fees and the scope of your request are resolved.
When will the office take a time extension to respond to my request?
The FOIA office may extend the 20-working day time limit for 10 more working days when it needs to:
Search for and collect the requested records from multiple offices;
Search for, collect, and examine a voluminous amount of separate and distinct records sought in a single request; or
Consult with another agency that has a substantial interest in the determination of the request.
If the FOIA office intends to take an extension under this subsection, it will notify you in writing and provide the reason for the extension and the date it expects to make a determination on your request.
If an extension is necessary and the office is unable to respond to your request within 30 workdays, it will notify you in writing when you may expect a final response and advise you of your appeal rights. If an extension is taken and you have not received a response in 30 workdays, you may consider the request denied and file an appeal or a lawsuit.
What are the criteria for receiving expedited processing?
To receive expedited processing of your request, you must demonstrate to the satisfaction of the FOIA office that your request meets one of the following criteria:
- Circumstances in which the lack of expedited treatment could reasonably be expected to pose an imminent threat to the life or physical safety of an individual;
- An urgency to inform the public about an actual or alleged Federal Government activity if the request is made by a person primarily engaged in disseminating information. In most situations, a person primarily engaged in disseminating information is a representative of the news media. The requested information must be the type of information which has particular value that will be lost if not disseminated quickly and ordinarily refers to a breaking news story of general public interest. However, neither information of historical interest only or sought for litigation or commercial activities nor a news media deadline unrelated to breaking news qualify for expedited processing; or
- The loss of substantial due process rights.
A request for expedited processing should be submitted with your FOIA request. For a prompt determination, you must submit a request complying with the requirements of 11 CFR § 9405.7 to the Chief FOIA Officer.
If you are seeking expedited processing, you must submit a statement explaining in detail the basis for your request. You must certify in your letter that your need for expedited processing is true and correct to the best of your knowledge and belief.
Within 10 calendar days of receipt of your request, the FOIA office will notify you whether it will grant expedited processing. If expedited processing is granted, the office will give priority to that FOIA request and process the request as soon as practicable. If expedited processing is denied, the FOIA office will notify you of your right to appeal the decision on expedited processing. Appeals of denials of requests for expedited processing will be processed ahead of other appeals (see 43 CFR Part 2, § 2.32(b)). If the FOIA office has not responded to your request for expedited processing within 10 calendar days, you have a right to file an appeal for non-response.
What is the fee schedule for processing requests?
The FOIA office will charge fees consistent with the provisions in 11 CFR §§ 9405.9 – 9405.12.