Denton County Precinct 1 Commissioner Hugh Coleman is taking a commendable step toward more transparency with his recent move to publish his campaign finance report online.
And, this week at the commissioner’s court meeting, he suggested his fellow commissioners do the same.
Making county campaign finance reports available to the public will be required by state law once the county’s population reaches 1 million — a mark not too far from reality with our last official count at 683,000 a year ago, according to the North Central Texas Council of Governments. At an estimated 3.2 percent growth rate since 2010, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, we’ve already topped the 700,000 benchmark at 707,304 residents. In addition, we’re among the fastest growing counties in the state and the country.
Coleman and Denton County Elections Administrator Frank Phillips are looking at the potential for publishing the reports online when a new website rolls out in July. Phillips said he has reviewed the statute that governs personal financial statements under the county jurisdiction.
County officials file their campaign finance reports with Phillips and their personal financial statements with the county clerk. Elected city officials and candidates — already required to make their records available to the public — file them with the city secretary. Elected school board members and candidates file their campaign finance reports with the superintendent’s secretary.
One hitch, however, is a requirement that logs are kept listing anyone who looks at the reports, according to Phillips. And keeping those records for online viewers could prove challenging. But we’re betting there’s likely a code-writing guru or an existing program that could render that particular concern moot.
More transparency equals, in our opinion, more accountability and more accessibility to the voters.
In this time of unfettered voter apathy, perhaps making information more available online — as well as figuring out a state- and federally-approved method for online voting — could bring back the masses to what we all should consider an important part of our citizenship in this country.