It seems our Senators have a thing or two learn from their home states when it comes to campaign finance reporting: 31 states currently require mandatory electronic reporting ("e-filing") of their elected representative's campaign finance records -- a leap above our Senate, which has failed to pass no-brainer e-filing legislation for over a decade.
Sunlight conducted a review of the current state of similar filings in the states (see chart below), and the results are pretty surprising -- in a great way.
State governments across the country -- 92% of them, in fact -- require at least optional, if not mandatory electronic filing for both houses of their bicameral legislatures. (For what it’s worth, Nebraska, our only unicameral state, is even included in that number, though e-filing is only optional, not mandatory there.)
- E-filing: Time for the Senate to get on board
- E-file History: A Senate non-disclosure timeline
- Dear senators: Join the 21st century
There are only 4 states that have no option for electronic filing of campaign finance reports: Idaho, Mississippi, North Dakota, and Vermont (!). But these outliers shouldn’t be clinging to their paper and scanners for too much longer. Although some states have had e-filing measures on the books for years, more and more are newly emerging. The most recent convert was in May 2013, when Alabama announced the launch of a new online campaign finance system to make candidates’ lives easier, reduce burdens on the state, and increase Alabamians’ access to public information -- all through the power of electronic filing.
Electronic filing removes the delays, price tag, and redundancies of translating paper filings into electronic information (its ultimate destination anyway) and gets public information into the public’s hands faster. The Senate would be wise to take a page not just from its federal peers who already require electronic filing, but from their roots, and should choose to voluntarily e-file this Monday.
Sunlight Policy Intern Justin Lin contributed to this post.