Editorial: Sacramento County inches toward campaign finance disclosure

Published: Monday, Jul. 7, 2014 - 12:00 am

Ever so slowly, Sacramento County officials are preparing to enter the Internet age, to the benefit of the electorate. It can’t come soon enough.

Sacramento County Executive Officer Bradley J. Hudson is preparing to seek bids to build a website displaying campaign contributions to candidates for county offices.

As it is, voters who are curious about which donors give to candidates must visit the county elections office way down at 7000 65th St., and copy the reports, which can run hundreds of pages.

The issue, Hudson has said, is one of cost. Certainly, the county has not been flush with funds. But an informative site can bring sunshine and help promote democracy, not an insignificant service.

The ideal page would include graphics that voters would find useful and informative. For that, the county might take a cue from San Francisco, which has a particularly user-friendly page.

Los Angeles County has one without many bells or whistles. Placer County, which has an innovative elections office, has had a no-frills site for a decade. Voters can call up campaign finance reports on their computers and leaf through them, without having to visit the elections office.

Sacramento ought to do better, as should Yolo County and any others that have yet to enter the world of computers.

California’s website, Cal-Access, gets points for making it easy for the public to search for contributors and download donations into spreadsheets, which makes it easier to spot trends. That function should be a feature of any elections website.

Washington state’s site remains the gold standard. The nonprofit California Voter Foundation has studied sites in all 50 states. Its reports offer suggestions and pointers.

Hudson’s effort is welcome, though a long time coming. Sacramento County should build a site that will have been worth the wait.

Read more articles by the Editorial Board

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