Election finance filings go real-timeBy Neal P. Goswami
VERMONT PRESS BUREAU | August 07,2014MONTPELIER — Campaign finance data should be easier to file and faster for the public to digest with the new Vermont Campaign Finance Information System, said Secretary of State Jim Condos.
Condos, a second-term Democrat, said the new filing system, which went live Tuesday, gives candidates, political action committees and parties the ability to maintain records of their political financial activities and file campaign finance reports online.
It also allows Vermonters to see information in real time as reports are filed, Condos said. The system will allow candidates to enter both contribution and expenditure information into a searchable database.
Until now, individual reports, usually handwritten, had to be scoured for particular information. Most filings were done in person at the secretary of state’s office.
Condos called the new system “a big step forward for financial transparency of political campaigns in Vermont.”
The system is a component of a nearly $3 million project to update the elections section of the secretary of state’s website. Additional features will be added, including tracking of absentee ballots, election results and voter checklist data.
The secretary of state’s office said the project was initiated internally but funding has been appropriated by the Legislature and includes some federal money.
The filing system is voluntary through the 2014 election cycle, but it becomes mandatory Jan. 1. The system can be used during this cycle, Condos said. However, that means those seeking campaign finance information during this cycle will have to look at both the old and new systems.
“The next couple months will give candidates a chance to acclimate to the new system at their own speed,” Condos said in a news release. “It will also give the public a glance at what is to come once we have mandatory usage in January 2015 — a huge boost for transparency in the electoral system.”
Condos said the filing system, and other planned upgrades, will make Vermont a leader in transparency.
“The development of an online filing system that provides searchable information for the general public, in real time, has been long overdue,” he said. “The launch of this system brings Vermont to the forefront of the growing movement to bring greater transparency to campaign financing.”
The new system can be accessed at campaignfinance.sec.state.vt.us.
The next filing deadline is Aug. 18.
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