Digitize the donors

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Today's digital age provides the means with which to make vast amounts of information available to more people than ever before at lower and lower costs - and, with a bit of irony, we believe city officials should revise the Berkeley Election Reform Act to take advantage of this opportunity.

The act was passed by Berkeley voters in 1974 to regulate campaign finances and requires the city to publish in a Berkeley newspaper a list of donors who contribute $50 or more toward political campaigns.

We strongly believe in transparency and believe that the intention of this law remains as relevant as ever. But the requirement that the list be published in a local newspaper has, like last week's headlines, become largely outdated.

The city must consider its ability to provide the information to the greatest number of people with the cost of doing so, and we believe that making the list available online achieves the greatest balance. Access to the Internet is available to all community members at the public library, and if computer literacy is a concern, the act could require the list to be posted at the library branches or other public areas.

Newspapers remain effective in generating publicity and providing information and analysis, but they are not necessary to fulfil the spirit of the law. With Berkeley's only newspapers remaining featuring limited circulation and readership, the city cannot afford the $1,876 it spent in October 2010 to publish the list in the Berkeley Voice.

Long live the newspaper, but election reform must embrace the 21st century.






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