NM SOS: Transparency Need Not Apply

At this point during election years in New Mexico, familiar themes seem to emerge. Candidates for office at all levels define themselves and their opponents (aggressively in some cases), while radio and television are flooded with all manner of advertisements. Our state also draws an inordinate amount of national attention, especially during presidential election years.

New Mexico’s election years are beginning to add another theme to the list of familiars. That theme of course is the inaccuracy and malfunctioning of the Secretary of State’s online reporting system. Unfortunately for the people of our state, this problem is rather unique to The Land of Enchantment. In the year 2008, practically every state in the country has a functioning, real-time campaign reporting system that is fully searchable and easy-to-use.

In order to understand the magnitude of this painful saga, I believe it is instructive to review the lack of progress over the past five years.

Let’s take a look at the time line.

2003: The legislature overwhelmingly approves amendments (including requirements for electronic filing of campaign reports) to the Campaign Reporting Act. The amendments are set to go into effect in 2006, giving the Secretary of State a full three years to implement a workable system.

2004-2005: Advocates, supportive elected officials and state employees work to help implement the electronic filing system.

2006: After a three-year grace period, amendments to the Campaign Reporting Act, including electronic reporting requirements, go into effect (January 1). Beginning with the primary elections, candidates for public office, the media and the public quickly learn of major system deficiencies. The general election brings the deficiencies into full view.

2007: After a disastrous first-run with the electronic filing system, there is a major effort in the legislature to return to paper records. Thankfully, this effort is thwarted.

2008: Five years after the passage of amendments to the Campaign Reporting Act, the electronic filing system at the Secretary of State’s office is still completely deficient (link) (link).

There you have it, folks. Five years and we are still waiting for some semblance of transparency and accurate information from the Secretary of State’s office.


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