BAY COUNTY, MI — Bay County voters have a powerful new tool to research local candidates running for election to public office.
Bay County Clerk Cynthia Luczak recently had computer software installed that allows workers in her office and candidates to place campaign finance reports online.
“I wanted to make it easily accessible,” Luczak said.
The records for some longtime public servants date back years. They cover all pre-election and post-election campaign finance reports. In them are detailed all individual campaign donations, proceeds from fundraisers and campaign expenditures.
One exception is that candidates who expect to spend less than $1,000 on their campaign can fill out a finance report waiver. But even those waivers are now online.
The software from Michigan company Campaign Finance U.S. cost $4,000, plus $1,000 for maintenance, Luczak said. She had sought in recent years to get the records online, but didn’t receive funding until late 2015 for the effort from the Bay County Board of Commissioners.
The records went online in mid-March, Luczak said. With primary and general elections scheduled for August and November, and a candidate filing deadline of April 19, “It is just in time for this year,” she said.
Bay County is ahead of many of Michigan’s 83 counties in getting these campaign finance records online, she said. While some larger counties have developed their own software to accomplish the task, Bay County is among about a dozen to use the Campaign Finance U.S. system in the state.
Campaign finance records are already online with the Michigan Secretary of State for legislators and statewide elected offices.
What used to require a trip to downtown Bay City or even Lansing to review campaign finance documents now takes just a few keystrokes online.
“It’s amazing what technology can do,” Luczak said.