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Eye On Boise

Secretary of State seeks big budget boost, largely to upgrade software for campaign finance reporting

Idaho Secretary of State Lawerence Denney is asking for a budget increase next year of more than 70 percent, with most of the increase coming in a major upgrade to the state’s election software system to allow more transparent reporting of campaign finances, lobbyist records and election management and results.

“This will allow us to migrate the full functionality of the state’s election software management applications into a single, comprehensive and purpose-built software suite that will carry us into the future,” Denney told the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee. “These areas represent within the election system the highest customer interest from a voter-information standpoint. It’s through these areas that voters can look up who is running and what they’re running for, who is contributing to the campaigns, and who is lobbying, along with our election management and an upgrade to our election-night reporting.”

The move was endorsed unanimously earlier by a legislative interim committee that’s recommending more and more frequent campaign finance reporting.

“The current applications managing these tasks were built years ago,” Denney said, “and they have been modified to meet the new statutory requirements, but they’re cumbersome,” and don’t include the “user-friendly” features new, modern software could bring. “We believe that this upgrade is the technologically right and necessary next step for the Secretary of State’s office to enable us to securely and correctly administer Idaho’s election system, while adjusting to changes that will come along,” Denney told lawmakers.

That line item totals $1.29 million in state general funds; it may be spent over two years.

Denney is also requesting two additional staffers, in communications and cybersecurity. The cybersecurity analyst, who would be in the office’s information technology division, would be someone with “a top-secret security clearance,” Denney said. “I am also in the process of applying for a top-secret security clearance. There’s a 120-some page application – I can tell you, it takes some time to fill it out.”

Denney said, “Election security is an ongoing and critical concern to every citizen.”

JFAC members, who were running late – and had to put off the budget hearing for the state treasurer’s office today, because Health & Welfare budget hearings ran long – had no questions for Denney about his budget. “This is a pretty straightforward budget, and the secretary has been really diligent in it,” said Sen. Shawn Keough, R-Sandpoint, JFAC co-chair. She told Denney, “We know where to find you.”

Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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