On March 16, 2011, the Commission approved a Notice of Interpretive Rule regarding redesignations of candidate committees’ contributions from one election to another. Commission regulations require that a contributor’s redesignation of a contribution for another election (from a primary to a general election, for example) be in writing and be signed by the contributor. 11 CFR 110.1(b)(5) and 110.2(b)(5). However, the Commission has determined that it will interpret the Federal Election Campaign Act (the Act) and Commission regulations in a manner that is consistent with contemporary technological innovations where such technology will not compromise the intent of the Act and regulations. See, for example, AOs 1999-09 and 1995-09.
During the course of an audit of a candidate’s authorized committee, the Commission determined that a specific redesignation practice by the committee provided the same degree of assurance of the contributor’s identity and the contributor’s intent to redesignate the contribution to another election as a handwritten signature. In that case, the political committee informed contributors through postal mail, with a followup email, that they could choose to redesignate their contribution to that candidate’s other authorized committee by visiting the committee’s website. Contributors were also informed that, if they did not redesignate their contributions, they would automatically receive a refund. Contributors who visited the website were asked to fill out an electronic form affirmatively authorizing the redesignation of the contribution and verifying their identity by entering their personal information. The committee retained a record of each electronic redesignation in a database, including the personal information provided by each contributor making a redesignation, in a manner consistent with the recordkeeping requirements for signed written redesignations under 11 CFR 110.1(l).
The Commission concluded in that particular audit that the process used by the candidate’s committee provided assurance of contributor identity and intent to redesignate a contribution equivalent to a written signature. Since the specific method approved by the Commission requires the contributor to provide personal information that can be verified against a committee’s records, it provides a level of assurance as to the contributor’s identity and intent.
The Commission will consider other methods of electronic redesignation, provided that they offer a sufficient degree of assurance of the contributor’s identity and the contributor’s intent to redesignate. Such consideration will be provided on a case-by-case basis unless and until the Commission initiates a rulemaking on this issue.
The Commission’s Notice of Interpretive Rule was published in the Federal Register on March 23, 2011, and was effective upon publication.