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R h o d e . I s l a n d


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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 Rhode Island

Rhode Island's high grade in disclosure content accessibility helps boost its rank to eleven overall, but it has some room for improvement. The state has an average Campaign Disclosure Law and poor web site usability.

Candidates are required by law to file quarterly statements in non-election years and two statements before each election, with the last statement filed seven days before Election Day. Details, including information about a contributor's employer, must be disclosed for contributors who give $100 or more. Last-minute contributions are not required to be disclosed, except by statewide candidates receiving matching funds, who must file contribution reports daily in the last seven days before an election. Expenditures over $100 must be disclosed, but subvendor information is not required to be reported. Independent expenditures are disclosed, including those made at the last-minute. Rhode Island has mandatory electronic filing for statewide candidates but electronic filing is voluntary for legislative candidates until 2004. The state provides free, web-based filing software and technical assistance for candidates who use the electronic filing system.

Rhode Island has come a long way since 1999, when there was no campaign finance data available on its web site and the state received a “Dark Skies” rating in the California Voter Foundation's Digital Sunlight Awards study. Today the official disclosure web site contains databases of contributions and expenditures from electronically filed records that are searchable on a number of fields. The site also features records for each candidate that can be browsed online in PDF format.

There are some terminology and technical usability problems with the data portion of the web site that made it difficult to locate data in some instances and resulted in a poor usability test score, but for the most part the site works well and is easy to navigate. To help people make sense of the wealth of data online, Rhode Island could increase the contextual information on its web site. The site does provide a good explanation of the state's disclosure requirements and law, and includes enough detail about individual filings for researchers to determine whose reports are online and whose are not included in the system. Rhode Island lost points in this category because reporting periods are not labeled in an index of a particular candidate's reports, and there are no lists of the total amounts raised and spent by state candidates.

Disclosure Agency: Board of Elections
Disclosure Web Site:

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This page was first published on September 17, 2003
| Last updated on September 17, 2003
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