York lacks online access to campaign finance records

Rebecca Klar
York Dispatch
Election Day in York City, Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2017. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Campaign finance records for local elections in York County are not available online. 

And York is not alone, as just eight of Pennsylvania's 67 counties post campaign finance information for municipal elections online, according to a survey by The York Dispatch. In some, including York County, the public must go to county offices in person or file a Right to Know request for access to campaign finance information. 

"Any time an agency puts information out proactively it improves transparency and also saves public resources," said Melissa Melewsky, media law counsel at the Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association.

"If somebody has to file a formal, written Right to Know request any time they want to view a public record, it takes time and resources of the individual making the request and the public agency responding to it," Melewsky said. 

Counties in Pennsylvania are not required to put campaign disclosures online. Limited technology — and the ability to fund it — could keep some from making the information available, Melewsky said. 

The records in question are for municipal offices, including county, township, city and school board elections. Filings for statewide office are available online through the Department of State

In neighboring states, however, including New York, New Jersey and Maryland, the state provides municipal campaign disclosures online. 

Streamlining: Two of York's neighboring counties, Dauphin and Cumberland, have made the switch to online access in the past decade — Dauphin in 2011 and Cumberland in 2015. The online availability has streamlined the process by saving the public the hassle of driving  to county offices during hours of operation, county election officials said. 

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With access to the internet, the public can view records any time of day from any computer, tablet or smartphone.  

Although some residents lack access to digital resources, the online sources are a "great benefit" to those with internet availability, Melewsky said. 

Since Cumberland County made records available online, fewer people come in person to view them, said Bethany Salzarulo, Cumberland County director of elections. The online upgrade has been time-saving for election staff, she said. 

It also has an added benefit for some election office workers. 

"It keeps me from having to answer questions from reporters," said Jerry Feaser, Dauphin County director of elections. 

— Rebecca Klar can be reached at rklar@yorkdispatch.com or via Twitter @RebeccaKlar_.