10:00 PM PDT on Friday, September 9, 2011

BY DUANE W. GANG
STAFF WRITER
dgang@pe.com

Candidates for county offices could soon have to enter the digital age.

Riverside County supervisors on Tuesday are scheduled to consider requiring candidates for the board and other countywide posts to electronically file campaign finance reports.

The ordinance, sponsored by Supervisor John Benoit, aims to boost public access to the documents, which detail campaign fundraising and spending. Filing the documents digitally allows them to go online immediately for public viewing.

“I am a strong believer in transparency,” Benoit said in a telephone interview Thursday. “Some others would like to put on (contribution) limits. I don’t think limits are effective.”

Benoit first raised the idea to require electronic filing in February when Supervisor Jeff Stone proposed campaign contribution limits. Stone withdrew his proposal when his colleagues didn’t support the idea.

The Registrar of Voters office already has a system that allows candidates to electronically file the reports, and supervisors and most other countywide officials use the system. But they are not required to do so.

About 400 active committees are required to file with the registrar’s office, and about half already submit the documents electronically, said Rebecca Spencer, the office’s chief deputy.

Under current rules, a candidate or political action committee can file the documents in person or mail them, provided the postmark meets the deadline.

In those cases, a staff member in the registrar’s office must physically scan each report, a process that often creates a lag time of days or weeks before the documents appear online.

Benoit said it is important for the public to know where a candidate’s money comes from during an election.

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