Presidential candidates all file their campaign finance reports electronically. (That's why you can search for your friends or neighbors on the Observer's searchable database of presidential contributors.) But for local candidates, it's always eben a different story.
But one that may start changing.
Candidates for county commissioner and city councils all file paper reports that are filed away at local elections boards. To look at them, you have to go down and literally pull them out of a file drawer.
Now Mecklenburg County's elections director, Michael Dickerson, is trying to put the reports online. They wouldn't be searchable by contributor, at least at first. But they'd be available for review with Adobe Reader. That could start with the next reports filed by local candidates in April.
"It makes it a 24-7 public records office," Dickerson says. And that's a good start.
The only state candidates who file electronically, by the way, are those who raise or spend more than $5,000. Legislative candidates don't have to turn in electronic reports.