Winner of the 2019 Excellence in Local News Award
OPRAmachine won in the “Innovate Local” category for the site’s innovative approach to public records. Details about the award are available here.
Opening up New Jersey government
OPRAmachine.com is a first of its kind government transparency project that I recently launched to serve the citizens of the state of New Jersey. The site is powered by the New Jersey Open Public Records Act (OPRA), a freedom of information law that allows any citizen of the state to request public records from state and local government agencies.
How it works
OPRAmachine is breaking down barriers by explaining aspects of the OPRA request process. The site allows any citizen to easily file a legally valid public records request and includes a directory that currently includes all 565 municipalities in the state, as well as various state and county governmental agencies. The site has enabled requesters to obtain thousands of pages worth of public records, helping to shine a light on some of the more obscure elements of New Jersey state and local government.
A unique benefit that OPRAmachine provides is that once a public entity provides documents in response to a request, the documents are subsequently stored in the site’s database and made public, allowing the entire public to be able to reap the benefits. This model reduces duplicate requests and serves to further the OPRA law’s purpose of maximizing the citizenry’s knowledge of public affairs.
Thousands of pages released
Since its inception in October, 2017, the OPRAmachine platform has enabled the release of thousands of pages of government documents. Our database of public bodoies currently includes all 565 municipalities in New Jersey, with more public bodies being added on a regular basis. The site has been making an impact and has been used as a research tool by public officials, journalists and activists seeking to obtain authoritative information about public entities in the state. We recently added a documentation that includes detailed information about the process of making a request through the site, as well as reference material concerning the legal and site administration issues that may arise as a result of the site’s operation.
Praise for OPRAmachine
“One of the most important tools making New Jersey government more transparent.” - Citizens Media TV
“Thanks to Gavin Rozzi’s “OPRA Machine” website, the Atlantic County Government can no longer pretend to be transparent. Now they must do it for real.” - Atlantic County News
“The latest installation of our Alaveteli software, OPRAmachine, is an interesting new use of the platform. Rather than covering a whole country, as most of the other Alaveteli installations around the world do, it services just a single US state.” - Gemma Moulder, of the UK-based mySociety, which created the open-source software that powers the OPRAmachine platform.
OPRAmachine’s impact in New Jersey
Following four months of work, I reflected on some of the accomplishments of the web service in this blog post.
By the numbers
Since October, 2017, OPRAmachine has seen:
- 5369 public records requests
- 3568 followup messages sent
- 784 registered users
- 1125 public bodies
- 142 annotations added to requests
- 423 tracked requests
Latest OPRA requests
Powered by the OPRAmachine API
- any open permits or violations against 6 Vernon Place
Requested from: East Orange City
Requested by: hadassah weinberg
Good afternoon, please see the attached correspondence. Best, Dale A. Forde Deputy City Clerk Office of the City Clerk City of East O...
- Assessment Records
Requested from: Aberdeen Township
Requested by: Anonymous
Status: Partially successful.
Also, feel free to stop down at my office.
- Opra Request
Requested from: Clark Township
Requested by: Arc Angel Brien Y. Murillo
The attached documents satisfy your Open Public Records Act request. Edith L. Merkel, RMC Township Clerk Township of Clark 430 Westfield Ave. Clark,...
Chart of requests
Main OPRAmachine website.
Read updates about the project at our blog here.