In the name of transparency, accountability and convenience in local elections, it’s past time for Ohio to exit the Dark Ages and enter the digital age in the handling of campaign finance reports.
Those reports, which detail the levels and sources of funds donated to candidates and issue sponsors, increasingly have become important and popular tools voters use to monitor to whom and to what degree office seekers may be beholden to individuals, corporations, political action committees and others.
For years now, many of those reports from candidates for state and federal positions have been instantaneously available to the public with a few quick taps on a keyboard of a computer or other electronic device.
Unfortunately, such has not been the case for candidates for local offices. State law does not authorize county boards of elections to accept the campaign-finance documentation electronically. Instead, those often voluminous documents are required to be submitted in antiquated and wasteful paper form.
That format makes it cumbersome and inconvenient for John Q. Public to review the sometimes illuminating and informative content found on them. It also makes for more time-consuming and tedious work on the part of local election board workers in archiving and storing that information.
For two years now, the Ohio Senate has attempted to bring campaign finance reporting into the 21st century. Earlier this week, which coincidentally is Sunshine Week to promote open and accountable government, the upper chamber of the Ohio General Assembly unanimously passed common-sense legislation sponsored by Sen. Frank LaRose of Hudson, R-27th, and co-sponsored by the Mahoning Valley’s senatorial delegation of Joe Schiavoni of Boardman, D-33rd, and Sean O’Brien of Bazetta, D-32nd.
PURPOSES OF SB 44
That legislation, Senate Bill 44, would amend state election law to allow county election board officials to accept campaign finance reports from candidates for local offices electronically. Further, those reports then would be forwarded to the Ohio secretary of state’s office for posting online for public downloading and review.
As LaRose, primary sponsor of SB 44 argues, “When candidates raise and spend money, there’s a very important public imperative for the general public to know how that money’s raised and how that money is spent.”
That’s why it is equally imperative that this public-spirited election reform not stall out in the Ohio House of Representatives as it did after initial Senate passage in 2016.
Representatives, including all from the Mahoning Valley delegation, can extend the spirit of Sunshine Week by working expeditiously to adopt this election reform that stands as a clear win-win for office seekers and voters alike.