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Electronic Filing Programs

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States are making steady progress in electronic filing. Since the publication of the first Grading State Disclosure study in 2003, twelve new electronic filing programs have been implemented; seven states have mandated electronic filing and five states have adopted new programs. Since 2005, four states that previously required electronic filing by statewide candidates expanded the mandate to legislative candidates as well. Thirty states now require candidates to file campaign finance reports electronically.

Twenty-three states earned grades in the A range, up from 17 in 2005. While no states earned grades in the B range, five earned Cs (one more state than in 2005) and the two states that earned Ds in 2005 received the same grade this year. The number of states in the F range dropped from 26 to 20 since Grading State Disclosure 2005 was published. Because of the value placed on mandatory electronic filing in the Grading State Disclosure criteria, those states with completely voluntary electronic filing programs are included among the failing states.

  • States with the strongest electronic filing programs, all receiving an A+ and tied for first place in this category, are: Arizona; Florida; Georgia; Hawaii; Illinois; Maryland; Massachusetts; Michigan; Missouri; New York; Ohio; Oregon; Rhode Island; Texas; and Washington.
  • States with no electronic filing (all tied for the last place rank) are: Alabama; Idaho; Kansas; Mississippi; Montana; Nebraska; North Dakota; South Dakota; Vermont; and Wyoming.

Significant 2007 findings:

  • 40 states have an electronic filing program for candidate campaign finance reports;
  • 30 states have a mandatory electronic filing requirement;
  • 23 of these states require electronic filing by candidates for both statewide and legislative office;
  • 7 states require electronic filing for statewide candidates only;
  • 10 states have voluntary electronic filing for statewide and legislative candidates;
  • 35 states reported having adequate funds to administer their electronic filing program and 5 reported inadequate funding; and
  • 10 states have no electronic filing program.

Significant changes since 2005:

  • 1 state added a new, mandatory electronic filing program. (South Carolina);
  • 2 states added new, voluntary electronic filing programs (Arkansas and New Hampshire);
  • 4 states that previously had voluntary electronic filing programs converted to mandatory electronic filing for both statewide and legislative candidates (Colorado, New Jersey, Oklahoma and Tennessee);
  • 1 state that previously only required electronic filing for statewide candidates added mandatory electronic filing for legislative candidates (Missouri);
  • 1 state that previously had a voluntary electronic filing program added mandatory electronic filing for statewide candidates (West Virginia); and
  • 6 states moved from failing to passing grades in the Electronic Filing category (Colorado, New Jersey, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee and West Virginia).

Most states require electronic filing for candidates who reach a certain threshold of fundraising or spending, with the threshold amount ranging from zero (Arizona) to $250,000 (Connecticut). Colorado’s new mandatory program requires electronic filing by state-level candidates with thirty or more reported transactions.

Five states currently have no electronic filing program in place (Alabama, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont and Wyoming); another five states currently have no program in place, but report progress in the development of new systems (Idaho, Kansas, Mississippi, Nebraska and Montana).

While mandatory electronic filing requirements are the ideal, and weighted heavily in this study, ten states currently offer a completely voluntary electronic filing option for candidates. It is important to note that these states, while receiving a grade of F in this category, are outperforming those states with no electronic filing program, as indicated in the rankings. In 2007, disclosure agencies reported an increase in voluntary electronic filing by candidates, with an average of 47 percent of statewide and 34 percent of legislative candidates participating. By comparison, in 2005, approximately 25 percent of statewide candidates and 27 percent of legislative candidates voluntarily filed campaign reports electronically in their states.

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Electronic Filing Methods

Twenty states offer a free, web-based filing system and 20 states provide free filing software for candidates; candidates in nine states can utilize either filing method. Twenty-nine states have developed and offer candidates a standard filing format (technical specifications) which is used to ensure that electronically-filed reports are compatible with the disclosure agency’s computer system, regardless of the filing method or software used. In the Grading State Disclosure 2007 survey, many states reported improvements in training resources and technical assistance available to electronic filers.

Funding and Support for Electronic Filing Programs

Adequate funding is a critical component of electronic filing programs; in addition to the resources necessary to develop such a program, disclosure agencies also require funding to maintain and upgrade systems, and to provide support and training to candidates. Most states recognize the need to continue to provide a stable funding stream that anticipates both program growth and the need to adapt to new technology; this year, 35 of the 40 states with electronic filing programs reported having adequate funding for their programs. However, nine states reported funding as a primary barrier to advancing their state’s disclosure system.

Additionally, disclosure agencies were surveyed on the level and type of technical support available for their electronic filing programs and whether it is provided “in house” or from outside consultants. Eighty-three percent of state disclosure agencies reported having access to adequate or strong technical support and 50 percent reported having access to strong technical support. It is noteworthy that of those reporting strong technical support, 90 percent received either all or a portion of their technical support from within their own agency or department.


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First published October 16, 2007
| Last updated November 17, 2007
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Campaign Disclosure Project. All rights reserved.