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A l a b a m a


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Campaign Disclosure Law
Electronic Filing Program
Disclosure Content Accessibility
Online Contextual & Technical Usability

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The State of Disclosure in Alabama

Alabama has received an F in each of the five Grading State Disclosure assessments conducted since 2003, and ranked 49th in 2008. Despite the state’s overall failing performance, Alabama earned a passing grade in the Online Contextual and Technical Usability category due in part to the Secretary of State’s office debuting a more user-friendly homepage in late 2007.

Alabama earned an F again and dropped one spot to 49th in the disclosure law rankings since 2007. Alabama law requires campaigns to disclose the name and address of contributors and the recipient, date and reason for campaign expenditures, but subvendor expenses are not reported. The state also suffers from poor enforcement provisions and debt reporting requirements. Unfortunately, the Alabama legislature failed to act on a number of opportunities to strengthen campaign laws, and none of the bills introduced in 2008 dealing with disclosure issues became law, leaving the state with no independent expenditure reporting, no disclosure of contributor occupation or expenditure data, and no program for the electronic filing of campaign disclosure reports.

Although the Secretary of State’s web site was redesigned since the last assessment, the effort did not include a redesign of the system for accessing campaign disclosure records and Alabama earned an F again in 2008 in the Disclosure Content Accessibility category. The Secretary of State’s staff data-enters the total amounts raised and spent within individual reports but, as noted in previous assessments, the process for viewing itemized data is cumbersome and limited to browsing scanned PDF copies of campaign disclosure filings. While disclosure documents are posted to the Internet quickly, the lack of online, searchable databases of campaign finances and the inability to sort or download the data are significant weaknesses of the site. The public can purchase paper copies of disclosure reports from the Secretary of State’s office for $1.00 per page, the highest fee for copies charged by any state (South Dakota also charges $1.00).

The Secretary of State’s web site redesign did help Alabama earn a better rating on the 2008 usability test and a D- in the usability category after failing in this area in 2007. Testers were able to complete their tasks more quickly this year, but the site is still lacking in terms of contextual information. The site could be enhanced by improving the description of the disclosure data available online, providing the public with the ability to compare the summary information between different candidates or election cycles, and by listing the starting and ending dates covered by each reporting period.

Quick Fix: Label amended reports as “Amended” rather than “Other”, the current label used.

Editor’s Pick: The Secretary of State’s newly designed homepage features a prominent link to “View Campaign Finance Reports”. View image

Disclosure Agency: Secretary of State
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First published September 17, 2008
| Last updated September 17 2008
Campaign Disclosure Project. All rights reserved.