Division of Archives and Records Service

Drafts: A Records Management and Access Enigma Explained

Joseph Sharp
August 30, 2011

The Government Records Access Management Act (GRAMA) clearly defines what a record is and what a record is not in the state of Utah. One of the most frequently asked questions received by the State Archives is: “How do I handle drafts?” In total, there are six references to drafts in GRAMA that address management and classification.

One reason why agencies struggle to manage drafts is because of the many exceptions they are given under GRAMA. Understanding these exceptions is crucial for the management and access of these documents. As defined by GRAMA a temporary draft “or similar material” is “prepared for the originator’s personal use or prepared by the originator for the personal use of an individual for whom the originator is working” (UCA 63G-2-103 (22)(b)(ii)). Under this definition, drafts are presumed to be non-records.

GRAMA does not define personal use. The Society of American Archivists defines personal papers as “non-official documents kept by an individual at a place of work.” This definition can be helpful for Utah State agencies when determining whether personal use applies to the draft documents created in their respective offices.

To be or not to be, a record?

At the Utah State Archives we emphasize that the defining characteristic of a record is the content contained therein, not the format or function of the document. Drafts differ slightly in that the exceptions found within GRAMA focus on how the draft is used and not necessarily by what content it contains.

Any draft document that has not been circulated and never leaves the workspace in which it was created is not a record. A draft document circulated within the creating agency for review is not a record until it has been officially approved by the creating agency.

When do drafts become  records and how are they classified?

A draft document becomes a record under the following exceptions:
1. The document is circulated externally (63G-2-301(3)(j)(i-v)):

(j) drafts that are circulated to anyone other than:
(i) a governmental entity;
(ii) a political subdivision;
(iii) a federal agency if the governmental entity and the federal agency are jointly responsible for implementation of a program or project that has been legislatively approved;
(iv) a government managed corporation; or
(v) a contractor or private provider;

2. The draft document was used by the governmental entity in carrying out action or policy. (63G-2-301)(3)(k))

a. Under such circumstances the draft may not have been officially finalized or approved before the action was taken.

3. Draft documents that are circulated to a person who is not an employee or head of a governmental entity for the person’s response or information.

Classifying Draft Documents:

Draft documents are subject to the following classifications:
1. Not record

a. Those drafts that were never circulated and never left the originators workspace.
b. Drafts circulated internally that have not been approved and no action or policy has been taken using the information contained therein.

2. Normally Public (63G 2 301(3)(j)(k))

a. Those drafts circulated externally.
b. Drafts that were never finalized or approved but were used to take action or make policy.

3. Protected (63G 2 305 (22))

a. drafts, unless otherwise classified as public

4. Protected (63G 2 305 (61)(c))

a. Refers only to those records in the custody or control of the Office of Inspector General of Medicaid Services
b. before the time that an investigation or audit is completed and the final investigation or final audit report is released, records or drafts circulated to a person who is not an employee or head of a governmental entity for the person’s response or information.

Best Practices for Managing Draft Documents:

1. Use a file naming scheme that identifies the document as a draft, example: ‘YYYYMMDD’DRFT_‘FILENAME’.

a. File names should be easily identifiable by any potential users.
b. Use meaningful acronyms.

2. Microsoft Word 2003 allows users to clearly mark documents as :

b. Confidential
c. Copy
d. Do Not Copy
e. Draft
f. Original
g. Personal
h. Sample
i. Top Secret
j. Urgent
k. Customized watermark

3. Clearly mark all Microsoft Word documents with the appropriate watermark.

a. Mark the original copy as “original.”
b. Any document circulated internally might be given a “draft” watermark.
c. If you create a document in response to a thought or idea, or other ad-hoc means that was not requested by your supervisor or a co-worker, consider using the “personal” watermark.
d. Drafts that contain sensitive information or information known to be restricted by GRAMA might have a “confidential” watermark.

4. Update the watermark as necessary to track all stages of the document’s use.

a. Documents may require a different watermark depending on the stage it is in during the approval process of your agency.

5. Consider creating a folder on a shared network where all draft documents are stored.

a. Move draft documents to a “Finalized/Approved” folder as soon as the document has been approved.
b. If an unapproved document was used in action or policy, create a custom watermark per agency guidelines and move the document to a new folder.

6. Create a system for tracking all drafts circulated externally- these drafts are now records and subject to GRAMA requests.
7. Delete all draft documents once the final version has been approved.

a. Do not forget to delete any drafts that were circulated among the office.
b. Send an email reminder to any persons who received the draft asking them to delete the file.

8. Designate classifications for draft documents based on GRAMA.

Download the drafts chart.

State Records Committee Decisions and Orders: Drafts

MARVIN MELVILLE, Petitioner, vs.

WILLIAM JUSTESEN, Petitioner, vs.


R. K. SHIMABUKURO, Petitioner, vs.
WEBER COUNTY, Respondent