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O k l a h o 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 Oklahoma

While its D+ grade might not indicate it on the surface, Oklahoma's campaign finance disclosure program has the potential to be much better. With a reinstatement of its mandatory electronic filing rule and a few changes to its disclosure law and web site, Oklahoma could climb closer to the top in the study.

The state's campaign finance disclosure law is above average and requires active candidates to file quarterly reports every year, plus an additional report each election. Candidates must disclose details, including occupation and employer, about contributors who give more than $50. Last-minute contributions of $500 or more must be reported within 24 hours. All expenditures must be disclosed, including detailed subvendor information. Independent expenditures must be disclosed as well, and last-minute independent expenditures of $500 or more must be reported within 24 hours. Oklahoma once had a mandatory electronic filing program, established by administrative rule in 1997, but that rule was changed by an act of the legislature and electronic filing is now voluntary.

Oklahoma does a good job of making campaign finance data accessible to the public. The strength of its disclosure web site is that it contains searchable contribution and expenditure databases. The weakness is that those databases are populated with information from electronically filed reports only, which, combined with the change in the electronic filing rule, results in a wealth of data from the 1998 election, but just a handful of reports since then. Most reports are filed on paper and are not scanned for the web. The paper reports are only available on paper through the Oklahoma Ethics Commission's offices. The state's B grade in this category reflects the fact that the foundation for providing online access to campaign finance data is there — what the state needs to do next is start filling in the structure with actual reports, and it appears changes are already underway. Recently the Ethics Commission unveiled a new system for electronic filing of campaign finance reports; hopefully this will result in a larger number of reports available for viewing online.

Web site usability is clearly the area in which Oklahoma has the most room for improvement. The state's searchable campaign finance databases were first developed in 1997 and problems apparent from the beginning, although relatively minor, have not been addressed. Case sensitive search fields and a search results page that first lists every committee in the system before returning any data, are just two examples of usability problems for which there is a relatively simple fix. A lack of instructions for using the system makes those and other technical difficulties even more frustrating. Not surprisingly, Oklahoma's disclosure web site failed the usability test. Contextual usability could be improved with clearer terminology, the addition of lists of the total amounts raised and spent by state candidates, and a better explanation of exactly whose reports are on the web site.

Disclosure Agency: Ethics Commission
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This page was first published on September 17, 2003
| Last updated on September 17, 2003
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