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
38
Disclosure Content Accessibility
F
41
Online Contextual & Technical Usability
D
25

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

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The State of Disclosure in Alabama

Alabama ranked 47th overall and in the Campaign Disclosure Law category for the third year in a row, and lost some of the gains made in web site usability in 2004, slipping nine places to a ranking of 25 in Online Contextual and Technical Usability.

Alabama law requires candidates to disclose the names and addresses of contributors giving $100 or more, but not contributors’ occupations and employers. Candidates must also disclose information about expenditures larger than $99, not including subvendor details or accrued expenses. Contributing to the consistently low rank in the law category are a lack of mandatory review and auditing of campaign statements, and a lack of independent expenditure reporting, both of which are serious deficiencies.  Alabama still does not require, or even offer, electronic filing of disclosure reports, even though e-filing legislation has been introduced a number of times in recent legislative sessions.

There have been few changes to Alabama’s disclosure web site since 2004, and the problems that were discussed in previous Grading State Disclosure reports still exist. To improve access to online campaign finance reports, the agency might start by streamlining the process for viewing scanned images of reports, and shortening the number of steps required to get to the various schedules of each report. For example, the screen that says “The document you requested…has 1 page. The document's size is  48K…the document will open in approximately 15 seconds” is one that could probably be skipped, especially since it appears that most files take only 1-2 seconds to open.

Alabama’s strengths are the contextual information on its disclosure web site, and its relatively high score for web site usability. However, its grade dipped a bit in this category and its rank dropped substantially as other states improved. To improve the contextual usability of the site and give site visitors a better sense of the scope of data available, the Secretary of State might consider adding the complete reporting period to the index of reports for each campaign committee, or at least featuring this information in a chart on the site. The label “45 day pre-election report,” for example, denotes when a particular campaign report was due, but does not indicate what time period is covered by the records within that report.           

Quick Fix: Reduce the cost of paper copies of disclosure records. $1.00 per page is the highest in the country, with only one other state charging that much.

Editor’s Pick: Clear and prominent “View Campaign Finance Reports” button on the agency’s main page. View image

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 26, 2005
| Last updated on October 26, 2005
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Campaign Disclosure Project. All rights reserved.