Grading State Disclosure 2004 Logo Graphic

A l a b a m a

Grade
Rank
F
47

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Subcategories
Grade
Rank
Campaign Disclosure Law
F
47
Electronic Filing Program
F
39
Disclosure Content Accessibility
F
42
Online Contextual & Technical Usability
C-
16

Grading Process green cube Subcategory Weighting green cube Methodology green cube Glossary

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The State of Disclosure in Alabama

Alabama has made significant progress in web site usability, but its extremely low disclosure law rank and continued poor showing in the categories of electronic filing and Disclosure Content Accessibility mean the state is still among the worst performing in the country.

Alabama law requires candidates to file annual reports in non-election years and two campaign finance reports before an election.  Candidates must provide details about contributors, but that information does not include occupation and employer.  The law requires detailed reports about expenditures of $100 or more, but subvendor information is not required.  Candidates do not report last-minute contributions before the election, and there is no reporting of independent expenditures, both of which are significant weaknesses in the law.  A lack of strong enforcement provisions also contributes to the low grade.  There has been some support in Alabama for electronic filing, but there is still no program in place.

The Secretary of State’s web site features campaign finance records dating back to 1990, but those statements are available only as scanned images posted in PDF, and there are no searchable or sortable records on the site.  Summary information for each report is displayed in HTML, but the interface for viewing the rest of the data is a bit cumbersome, with each report section displayed as a separate file.  Using this system, it could take a person hours to view all of the reports for just one or two candidates.  Access to paper disclosure records on file at the agency is good, but at $1.00 per page, the cost of copying records is prohibitive.

Alabama’s strength lies in the contextual and technical usability of its disclosure web site, and even that could be improved.  The site includes a list of candidates for office, information about the state’s disclosure requirements, and a good explanation of which records are available online.  However, it is still lacking a simple list of total amounts raised and spent by candidates, which would give site visitors a quick overview and a better understanding of how a particular candidate’s fundraising activity compares to that of other candidates in the same contest.  Alabama’s web site performed much better in the usability testing in 2004, likely due to the fact that it became easier to locate the agency’s web site from the State of Alabama homepage.  Usability testing results were the main reason for the state’s jump from an F to a C- in the usability category.

Disclosure Agency: Secretary of State
Disclosure Web Site:
http://www.sos.state.al.us

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This page was first published on October 25, 2004
| Last updated on October 25, 2004
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Campaign Disclosure Project. All rights reserved.