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April 17, 2013 | By | Posted in WatchBlog

WATCHBLOG: Senate passes online disclosure, voter registration bills

By Melissa Daniels | PA Independent

KEEPING UP WITH THE TIMES: The state Senate passed three bills Wednesday to require more disclosure forms get filed online, and to create an online voter registration system.

KEEPING UP WITH THE TIMES: The state Senate passed three bills Wednesday to require more disclosure forms get filed online, and to create an online voter registration system.

HARRISBURG — For the last couple decades, the Internet has made plenty of day-to-day activities easier, from banking to buying to dating.

Government transactions, however, are still catching up.

On Wednesday, the Pennsylvania Senate took some steps toward putting more government filings on a 21st-century footing, for politicians and voters alike.

The Senate unanimously voted in favor of three bills Wednesday that will improve access to lobbying disclosure forms and campaign finance data, and create an online voter registration system.

One bill from Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, R-Delaware, will require all political candidates to file their campaign finance reports electronically. This is already required by the majority other states, Pileggi said.

“This bill reflects our ongoing commitment to reform, transparency and accountability,” Pileggi said in a statement. “Electronic filing also provides the additional benefits of improving accuracy and cutting costs.”

It saves about $100,000 a year, according to state estimates.

Pileggi’s legislation also requires additional reports from candidate committee or PAC which raises or spends $10,000 or more in a calendar year to file additional reports, and doubles maximum fees for late filing to $500.

Another bill from Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati, R-Jefferson, would require lobbyists to file their disclosures online. In a statement, Scarnati said manual reports can take months to get filed and get online.

Also, the Senate unanimously passed a bill from Sen. Llyod Smucker, R-Lancaster, that would allow online voter registration. Voters could register up to 30 days before an election, or change their voting information, through a website instead of a snail mail or dropping off a form at the county courthouse.

Sixteen other states have such a system.

The bill has the support from the American Civil Liberties Union, who cite a smoother administrative process with online processing.

“For the health of democracy, elections should be run as smoothly as possible,” said Andy Hoover, legislative director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania. “Online registration can make the process more precise. That leads to less delay and fewer problems on Election Day.”

All three bills now move to the House for consideration.

Contact Melissa Daniels at melissa@paindependent.com

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Melissa Daniels is a reporter for PA Independent. She can be reached at 717-350-0962 or Melissa@PAIndependent.com

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