- Associated Press - Friday, October 21, 2016

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) - New Mexico election officials requested nearly $1 million on Friday to replace an online campaign finance information system that has been widely criticized for obscuring sources and destinations of political spending.

The current system cannot be adapted to meet public calls for transparency or new legal requirements approved in February, state Elections Director Kari Fresquez told lawmakers in Santa Fe.

“We believe that to do the system right, it’s going to cost $985,000,” Fresquez told a legislative committee on technology.

Spending less money to upgrade the existing system would leave barriers that make it difficult to track money from lobbyists, political committees and individual contributors, she said.

A decision on the one-time funding request is unlikely to be made until the Legislature reconvenes in January to draft a budget.

New Mexico state government is wrestling with a major decline in revenues linked to a sustained downturn in the oil and natural gas industry and a lagging state economy.

The state first switched in 2010 from a paper filing system for campaign finance disclosures to an online system that many now describe as obsolete.

Separately, the Secretary of State’s Office announced that online voter registration has gained popularity in New Mexico since the system was launched early this year.

About 108,000 people have gone online to register or update voter records in the state with nearly 2.1 million residents.

More than 49,000 of the people who have used the system were Democrats and nearly 30,000 were Republicans. Another 29,000 users were affiliated with other parties or none at all. The numbers roughly correspond with statewide party affiliation.

Fresquez described security features for online registration that include residency verification against records at the Motor Vehicle Division. Users also must supply a Social Security number, driver’s license number and date of birth, and locally elected county clerks have final authority over each application.

Online registration is available in English and Spanish. About 44,000 people have registered online so far this year.

“That’s 44,000 registrations where no one has to interpret someone’s handwriting and we don’t have to worry about data-entry,” said Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto, D-Albuquerque.


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