Arkansas hires Connecticut firm to create campaign finance ranking and reporting system

The Arkansas Secretary of State’s Office has selected Hartford, Connecticut-based Reframe Solutions as its vendor to create a new campaign finance filing and reporting system for the office, a spokesperson said. word of Secretary of State John Thurston.

Since rolling out the current system in 2017, Arkansas’ computerized system for tracking political campaign contributions and expenses has drawn criticism from candidates, elected officials and the public. Complaints about the current system have included that it is outdated, clumsy, inaccurate, cumbersome and not user friendly.

The Legislative Council voted on Thursday to accommodate a request from the Republican Secretary of State’s office for $1,083,679 million in spending authority for the new system to be funded from the state’s central services fund. .

On Tuesday, the board’s Performance Evaluation and Expenditure Review subcommittee recommended that the board approve the request without asking questions about it.

The requested amount will be used by the Office of the Secretary of State to award a professional services contract for the provision of an integrated and searchable online campaign filing and reporting system in accordance with Law 1029 of 2021 , Chief Undersecretary of State Bill Huffman wrote in a letter. dated June 21 to Secretary of the Department of State Finance and Administration, Larry Walther.

Reframe Solutions, Tyler Technologies, TCS, Tecuity, DataScout, Maplight and GoCivix have each submitted bids to provide the new campaign finance ranking and reporting system, said Kevin Niehaus, director of government affairs in the secretary’s office. ‘State and Head of Office. spokesperson.

“After a thorough evaluation of the submitted proposals, the Office of the Secretary of State selected Reframe Solutions as the vendor to build a new campaign finance system,” he said in a written statement Thursday.

Seven companies submitted proposals and the evaluations were scored 30% on qualifications, 40% on proposed system design and 30% on price, Niehaus said.

“The price quoted by Reframe Solutions was $997,650 to build the system with $108,000 annual maintenance,” he said.

“The amount we requested in [from Arkansas Legislative Council’s Performance Evaluation and Expenditure Review Subcommittee] would cover the cost of building the system and the first year of maintenance plus taxes,” Niehaus said.

The secretary of state’s legal department is working on a contract, and the secretary’s office expects the process to take about a year, he said.

“The system Reframe Solutions showed us was much more user-friendly,” Niehaus said. “The system gives the Office of the Secretary of State much more control and is easily customizable to meet the needs of our users. A new feature of this system will be the ability to search for donors.”

The secretary of state’s office and lawmakers have called problems with the current campaign finance filing system problems, and the problems are hardly a secret.

As of 2017, Arkansas law requires state candidates to file campaign finance information electronically, rather than on paper, with the secretary of state. Until 2021, the law only mentioned two exceptions: lack of access to technology and substantial hardship.

Law 1029 of 2021 removed the two listed exceptions, instead requiring a notarized affidavit on a form prepared by the office of the Secretary of State.

Despite its difficulties, Arkansas’ current campaign reporting system has been a step forward for the state.

In 2014, Arkansas was one of the last states in the nation to not require a numerical political contribution or expense claim.

Researchers and citizens curious about political money had to poring over hundreds or thousands of sometimes handwritten, sometimes illegible pages.

Former Rep. Jana Della Rosa, R-Rogers, sponsored a 2015 bill that sought to require candidates to file campaign finance reports in a then-existing computer database. Governor Asa Hutchinson supported the idea.

His first effort failed, but Della Rosa was successful in 2017. It was also when the state introduced the current computerized filing system at a cost of $763,820. The start date was October 1, 2017.

The tender attracted one supplier, PCC Technology Inc. of Connecticut, according to Niehaus. “They were the only company that responded that could do it on time,” he said.

Installed under then-Secretary of State Mark Martin, “it wasn’t a system we necessarily liked or were thrilled about,” Niehaus said last year, and Thurston “didn’t either no longer been a fan” of the system and preferred a new one. “