Clean Up Your Committee Files
January 16, 2015
Now is the perfect time to take advantage of the start of a new election cycle. On November 5, 2014, all Michigan campaign contribution limits reset. Election cycles are time frames provided in the
Michigan Campaign Finance Act (MCFA) to accumulate contributions and expenditures for reporting purposes, and to help committees avoid violating the MCFA by accepting or making an excess contribution.
Contribution limits for all offices are based on the election cycle of the office. Candidates running for office are limited in what they are allowed to accept from individuals and groups in an election cycle, and these same individuals and groups are limited in what they can contribute to a candidate in an election cycle.
Since these totals reset after the November 2014 election, it’s a great time to clean up those inconsistencies in your committee Michigan Electronic Reporting and Tracking System (MERTS) files -without impacting the new election cycle or yearly cumulative totals. Here are four items that can help to clean up your data files and make filing a little faster.
Clean Up Un-Cashed or Lost Checks
It’s safe to assume any check outstanding past 120 days is probably lost, here’s two options on how you can clean it up:
Cancel the check and re-issue (no need to amend a report if you choose this option)
Stop payment on or cancel check
- Adjust your bank register to reflect canceled check.
- Make an entry on your February 2015 MERTS report to put the money back on your report balance.
TIP: For option 2, list the entry on your February filing as a receipt under “Other Receipt”. This will save you from having to back it out and amend multiple reports. Make sure you clarify who the check was written to; include date written, address, etc. under the notes for the entry.
Update Contributor Address Information
It’s a good idea to periodically check contributor address information for changes.
- Go to the “Names” tab, right click on the name, then click modify.
- Change pertinent information and save.
TIP: If you are a separate segregated fund using payroll deduction, new forms need to be signed annually by contributors. Take time to compare the information on the new forms to your database in order to make any address updates.
Remove Duplicate Names
We all have those days when attempting to enter contributions, we cannot find a name and end up creating a duplicate file. Since the MERTS software will not allow you to delete a file that has been used by the system, here’s an option:
- Go to the Name tab.
- Right click on the name/file you want to make inactive.
- Add “Duplicate” at the end or beginning of the name, whichever you are most likely to notice or prefer when it comes up on the menu. (For example: if you have two “Joe Smith’s” that are the same person, insert “Duplicate” at the end of the name and save)
- Next time you make an entry (depending on where you placed “Duplicate”) you will notice s/he in the system twice, use the file you wish to continue with.
Create a New Committee Data File – PAC’s Only
If you have a large file spanning multiple years and campaign cycles, archiving your MERTS data file may be a good idea. This is not necessary for Candidate Committees since they span limited time frames. There are four basic steps* to archive and create a new data file:
- Back up current data file.
- Export the names from your current file.
- Import the names/create new data file.
- Add new report/adjust cash on hand.
*Step by step instructions are on the MERTS Plus website, located here: http://www.mertsplus.com/mertsuserguide/index.php?n=MERTSPlus.MERTSFileArchiveProcess
TIP: Doing this will make your MERTS files and reports load faster. Give yourself extra time to file the first “new” report in case you have any difficulties when uploading.
Of course, the content above is meant to serve only as a guide. Every filing situation is different and you should always call me or email your questions (517/482-5311 or Lfarnum1@gmail.com), visit the Bureau of Elections for more information (http://www.michigan.gov/sos/0,4670,7-127-1633_8723—,00.html) and consult with your attorney.