Albuquerque, N.M., Takes Campaign Financing Online

Candidates for city council and mayoral races have to collect a series of small donations in person to qualify. Now, they still need to amass the donations, but a so-called “Clean Campaign Portal” is helping out.

by Jessica Dyer, Albuquerque Journal / April 25, 2019

(TNS) — Public campaign financing in the city of Albuquerque is going digital.

City council and mayoral candidates seeking public dollars to fund their campaigns must first amass a series of $5 contributions to qualify – and under former regulations, candidates had to collect those donations in person.

But a 2019 rules update allows registered voters to make an electronic contribution through a pilot “Clean Campaign Portal” unveiled Wednesday.

“We definitely are aiming to make the city and the public financing system more accessible, and I definitely think these measures will do that,” said Miriam Diemer, a senior elections analyst with the city clerk’s office, which worked with the city’s Department of Technology and Innovation on the pilot.

There is no mayoral race on this November’s ballot, but four of nine city council seats are up for grabs. At least one candidate in each of those districts has signaled they will pursue public financing. To qualify, they have the month of May to collect a $5 donation from at least 1 percent of the registered voters in their districts – between 323 and 433 people depending on the race.

Candidates can still take contributions during face-to-face interactions, Diemer said. But now they can also direct potential donors to the website, perhaps even just emailing a link.

The portal, built by Albuquerque company HoldMyTicket for $8,500, will verify that the donor is a registered voter through an interface with the New Mexico Secretary of State’s website before accepting the payment. Diemer said that will save the clerk’s staff time.

“In the past, every $5 of cash or check that’s come in, we’ve had to look up that person in the system and verify that they’re a voter in that district,” she said.

All money collected during the process in May will go to the Open and Ethical Elections Fund. Those who qualify get a disbursement of between $32,000 and $43,000 depending on their district size.

Mayor Tim Keller and his predecessor, Richard Berry, both ran publicly financed campaigns. Keller said in a statement he’s “excited to see how this tool enhances the process.”

Most of the sitting councilors have used it too, including Isaac Benton and Pat Davis, who are each seeking public financing for their 2019 re-election campaigns.

Davis welcomes the change, saying Wednesday that collecting hundreds of $5 contributions during in-person meetings was not easy.

“I did it last time; it’s a pain,” he said, quipping “I think (this) is a step into the 20th century.”

The new portal can be found at cabqcleancampaign.org, but donations cannot be made until May 1.

©2019 the Albuquerque Journal (Albuquerque, N.M.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.