Advocate Editorial Board opinion: Digitizing information will improve access

By the Advocate Editorial Board
Aug. 20, 2013 at 3:20 a.m.

Victoria County is an area with a lot of history. Our city and the surrounding ranches, farms, homes and more each have their own stories that can be tracked through official records kept at the county clerk's office.

That is why Victoria County Clerk Robert Cortez's plan to digitally archive records from 1950 to as far back as the early 1800s is so exciting. These official records are important documents that cover everything from cattle brands, permits, birth and death records, marriage certificates, maps and many more topics. By digitizing these records, the county will be both preserving and making this information more accessible to those who wish to do research on the area and their own families.

In addition to making fragile records more accessible, Cortez's proposal also includes a $5 flat fee applied to the filing of specific documents to help fund the system instead of taking money from the county budget. This fee is a statewide standard from the state legislature since 2003 but was not implemented in the county before now.

This digitizing system could offer much more than just preserving records. This is also a chance to begin implementing a system that could offer access to public records through online requests or searches. By creating digital files of the county's archives, the clerk's office could create an area on the county's website where residents can request a copy of a specific form, pay a small fee using a credit card or other electronic method and receive it through their email. This could also help those who live out of town and need to access the archives' information without having to set aside time to miss work and come to the Victoria County Courthouse to request or pick up records.

We encourage the commissioners court to approve this plan and help preserve the archives of Victoria County's history. In addition, we encourage the commissioners court and the clerk's office to consider a plan to make public records even more accessible by offering a system that offers a place for online requests and emailed copies of the digitized documents. Open government is an important part of our system and taking advantage of this plan and making public records more accessible would be a step in the right direction for Victoria County.

This editorial reflects the views of the Victoria Advocate's editorial board.



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