New Mexico campaign finance site ranks high for usability

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The New Mexico Secretary of State’s campaign finance system ranked in the top three for usability nationally in a recent think tank report.

The Campaign Finance Institute examined usability of online campaign finance disclosure information by assigning random requests of the 50 state sites to 2,000 people, then evaluating how long it took and how the users evaluated the sites. The study did not rank state’s based on degree to which campaign finance information is required to be disclosed.

New Mexico ranked third overall in the report, after Minnesota and Washington. In terms of individual measures, the state’s Campaign Finance Information Site ranked highly when it came to confidence in results, ability to understand the results and understanding of terminology used on the site.

The state ranked eighth in terms of the ability for users to complete tasks in under 10 minutes.

Most states didn’t fare as well.

“It takes too long for users to find the answers to simple questions, and the answers they give are as likely to be inaccurate as not,” the institute concluded in a news release.

New Mexico’s Elections Director Kari Fresquez said in an email that she’s pleased with the report’s conclusions.

“I am excited to see that adding the publicly accessible data download has improved transparency in following the money in politics in New Mexico,” she wrote. “The ranking in this latest report reflects the importance the Secretary of State places on continually improving systems with an emphasis on public accessibility.”

Viki Harrison, executive director of Common Cause New Mexico, said the study reinforces that transparency requires usability.

“For those states that didn’t score well, I think it really highlights how important it is to make sure someone can actually find the information that is required by statute,” Harrison wrote in an email.

Harrison noted that the Secretary of State’s office has made improvements to the campaign finance site in recent months, but said more could be done. For instance, campaigns that amend their reports numerous times make things confusing, she said.

Earlier this year, New Mexico received a “B” from the National Institute on Money in State Politics disclosure scorecard. The state’s failure to require data about employers of campaign donors was part of the reason the state’s grade wasn’t better.

Harrison noted that the introduction to the CFI study said “just because a state scores well on how easy it is to find information doesn’t necessarily translate into meaning that state has good campaign finance and disclosure laws.”

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