As noted in this Crosscut article, the City of Seattle, like many local governments, has opted out of the indexing requirement in the Public Records Act. While the PRA mandates that agencies have an index of their records, it also allows agencies to opt out by issuing a formal order declaring that it would be too burdensome to comply with the indexing requirement.
Indexing records has many advantages for governments and the public. So why do governments opt out? Because for any local government, but particularly a government as large as Seattle, indexing all of the records that are required to be indexed under the PRA is a monumental and costly task.
This does not mean all records go unindexed. The PRA requires governments that opt out to collect and make available any partial indexes that already exist. In Seattle’s case, it’s also worth noting that the City has staff dedicated to archiving and managing its records.
One way the Archivist could help increase access would be to assist local governments begin the indexing process for existing records and standards to help governments index new records as they are created.