Davidson County’s new elections administrator says he’s working to make candidates’ financial records viewable online, which would eliminate fees citizens must pay to receive copies of the public documents.
Under current policy, election observers who want to take home a candidate’s financial disclosure information must visit the Davidson County Election Commission’s office and pay 15 cents per page. With some reports occasionally totaling 300 pages, the amount to obtain a full document is often expensive. Fees are intended to offset both copying costs and time spent retrieving the reports.
Albert Tieche, who replaced outgoing elections administrator Ray Barrett in January, said converting hard-copy disclosures to a PDF format, allowing the elections staff to post documents on the commission’s website, is on his radar. Doing so would increase transparency and save the commission money, he said. It would also make the documents free to citizens.
“We would like to do that,” Tieche said. “Knoxville has done it and done a real nice job of it. We think it would help transparency and would also eliminate some of the staff duties to make copies for folks when they request them.”
Tieche said the commission is still in the process of ironing out the procedures to make the electronic conversion a reality. He didn’t rule out finalizing the change by August’s Metro elections, but said he didn’t want to commit to a date.
The most recent financial disclosure deadline for Mayor Karl Dean and Metro Council candidates who have already appointed a treasurer was Jan. 31. The next deadline is April 11.
“Once we start, we have to make sure we can handle even the largest report,” Tieche said. “We have had them in here as large as 300 pages. So, we want to make sure we can quickly and efficiently receive them, get them scanned and put them up on the web.”
“I think we have the infrastructure in place to do it,” he said. “We just don’t have the procedures yet.”
Mike Peden, a Nashville political observer, said the change is “long overdue.” He pointed out Dean’s financial reports often exceed 100 pages.
“The last set of reports I got was the last council reports and it was over $25,” Peden said. “Every time they release it, it’s about that amount.
“I don’t think anyone should have to pay to view those reports,” he said. “They always have done it, and nobody’s questioned it.”