Local candidates' e-filing increases in Virginia

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Local,Virginia

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Electronic filing is becoming a popular way for local candidates in Virginia to submit their year-end campaign finance reports.

The Virginia Public Access Project says 433 candidates who sought local offices used e-filing to submit the reports this month, a 49 percent increase from January 2012 when 290 candidates used e-filing.

At least one candidate used e-filing in 77 of Virginia's 133 localities this year. Fairfax County had the most e-filers with 28, followed by Prince William County and Richmond with 22 each, Alexandria with 21 and Virginia Beach with 19.

Chris Piper, election services manager for the State Board of Elections, attributed the increase to the Committee Electronic Tracking System, or COMET, an online filing application for candidates and political action committees launched in March 2012. COMET replaced a desktop application that was released in 1999 as one of the country's first e-filing software systems developed by a state.

"Since the introduction of COMET, the number of local e-filers has gone up while our support calls have gone down," Piper said in a recent news release.

"This adds up to increased public disclosure and compliance with reporting requirements as well as fewer resources needed at both the local voter registration office and the State Board of Elections," he said, adding that COMET has been a win-win for everyone.

Offices sought by candidates who used e-filing included sheriff, school board, city council, town council, county supervisor and mayor.

Campaign finance reports submitted by candidates using COMET, along with reports filed through the old system, can be viewed on the State Board of Elections' website, www.sbe.virginia.gov .

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