Q What is MERTS?
MERTS stands for the Michigan Electronic Reporting and Tracking System. MERTS is software developed specifically to allow state level candidate, gubernatorial, political, independent, political party and ballot question committees to enter all receipt and expenditure data directly into a computer and then to submit Campaign Statements electronically via the Internet or by disk.
Starting in 2014, the Michigan Campaign Finance Act (Section 18(15) - MCL 169.218) requires state level committees that spend or receive $5,000.00 or more to file all campaign statements electronically via the Internet or disk.
Q How does MERTS work?
Once the committee has successfully loaded the software, a unique file (also referred to as a data set) is created for each committee. Under no circumstances would more than one committee file ever be created for any single committee. Users may work with any number of committees on a single computer.
When the committee file has been created, the user may enter names and addresses of contributors, committees, vendors and other persons into a Names tab database. Once entered, the information will never need to be entered again. The name information may be instantly recalled whenever a receipt or expenditure transaction is keyed into the committee file. While working within the campaign statement, receipts and expenditures are entered into a series of entry screens. Receipts, expenditures, loans and cumulatives are all tracked by the software.
Once complete, the user follows a simple upload procedure to submit the report over the Internet or by disk. A validation report automatically checks for common errors or omissions such as missing address information or excess contributions. When filing the statement over the Internet, the user will receive confirmation that it has been successfully submitted, or in the event of any difficulty, a notice to contact the Helpdesk.
Q Must I use MERTS?
No. While electronic filing is mandatory for committees that spend or receive $5,000.00 or more. Starting in 2014, the Michigan Campaign Finance Act (Section 18(15) - MCL 169.218) requires state level committees meeting this threshold to file all campaign statements electronically.
Committees may opt to use MERTS, or may contract with an approved system, which allows reports to be filed electronically in Michigan. Committees that currently utilize their own in house software product and wish to produce files to be submitted directly may request a copy of the file layout from the Michigan Department of State’s, Bureau of Elections. It is important to note that any program offered by an outside vendor, or created in house by a committee using the file layout, must be approved by the Bureau prior to its use by a committee for electronic filing. Committees are strongly advised to plan for sufficient lead time prior to an alternative program’s first use.
Vendors wishing to obtain approval from the Michigan Department of State’s Bureau of Elections for any software products must allow 90 days for completion of certified use.
Q Who can use MERTS?
MERTS is made available free of charge to all state level committees that file with the Secretary of State:
- Candidate Committees
- Gubernatorial Committees
- Political and Independent Committees (PACs)
- Caucus Committees (State Representative or State Senate Caucus Committees)
- County, Congressional District and State Central Political Party Committees
- Ballot Question Committees
MERTS is NOT available for local committees. A local committee is a committee that files with a county clerk and does not file with the Michigan Department of State’s, Bureau of Elections.
Q How does one obtain MERTS software and training?
Committees registered with the Bureau of Election may register to attend a webinar training covering both Compliance and MERTS by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the desired training date. The training is approximately 3 hours. Committees may view the current webinar schedule by going to www.michigan.gov/elections and selecting Campaign Finance Disclosure.
Q If an individual attends training for a specific committee or committee type, will the individual be allowed to register more committees without attending additional training?
Yes. For example, if an individual has attended a MERTS training for a candidate committee and later wishes to keep records for a different candidate committee or a different committee type, the individual would not be required to attend additional training sessions. Please contact the Bureau of Election for additional information.
Q Can I work with more than one committee on my computer?
It is acceptable to contain several committee files on one computer. Please note these files should be clearly identified to prevent confusion with other files (i.e. SmithStateRep, JonesStateSenate). A separate password for uploading reports will be required for each committee.
Q What type of computer system is required to use MERTS?
In order to successfully load and use the MERTS software, the following system is required:
- Windows 7, Windows 8, and Windows 10
- Internet connection
- Internet Explorer 11 browser or higher
- Windows Media Player 9.0 or higher for Training videos
- Any standard e-mail program (HTML enabled)
Note: While MERTS software is NOT supported on Apple/Mac computers, filers have successfully used the MERTS program and filed statements on a MAC using a PC emulator. Please be advised that we cannot provide advice on the choice, installation or use of the emulator. Nor can we guarantee that all issues will be resolved by the MERTS helpdesk. Bureau staff do not have access to or training on the use of MAC computers needed to reproduce and test issues that may arise.
Q Is there any security provided for data transmitted over the Internet using MERTS?
Yes. Committees use a secure password to ensure that only authorized persons are able to submit campaign statements on behalf of the committee over the Internet. When the data is being transmitted over the Internet, an encryption process provides for the security of the data.
Q Can I view campaign statements submitted using MERTS software?
Yes. Once a campaign statement has been electronically submitted to the Secretary of State, Bureau of Elections, the statement may be online. The statement can be viewed within moments of receipt by the Bureau of Elections at www.michigan.gov/elections.
Q What types of statements may be submitted using MERTS software?
MERTS may be used to submit the following types of statements:
- Annual Statements
- Pre and Post-Election Statements
- Pre and Post-Convention Statements
- July and October Quarterly (Candidate Committee in off Election Years)
- Petition Proposal Statements (Ballot Questions)
- January, April, July, October Quarterly Statements (Political and Independent Committees)
- January, April, July, October Quarterly Campaign Statements (Caucus Committees)
- Dissolution Statements
- Amendments to any of the statements indicated above.
Q What types of documents cannot be submitted using MERTS?
MERTS cannot be used to submit:
Q Are my reports saved as different files?
No. All reports filed by the committee are kept within one committee file.
Q If a duplicate file is created for a committee using the software, may two or more files be combined?
Yes. The software cannot calculate cumulative totals properly or bring forward the ending balance of the previously filed report/campaign statement. Therefore the transactions will need to be imported from one file and exported into the other. The import and export of transaction is limited to certain types of receipts and expenditures. For more information see the Exporting and Importing sections of the userguide.
Q Must committees required to file electronically resubmit past reports/campaign statements filed on paper?
No. Some data may need to be entered in order to arrive at the correct starting balance and cumulative totals for the first statement to be filed electronically. Resubmission of past reports will not be required. All other future reports/campaign statements (and amendments to those statements) received from committees meeting the mandatory filing requirement must be submitted electronically.
Q If a committee begins using MERTS, may the committee ever submit campaign statements on paper?
If the committee is required to file electronically under the Campaign Finance Act all reports/campaign statements must be filed electronically. If the committee is not required to file electronically but has filed reports/campaign statements electronically subsequent reports/campaign statements must also be filed electronically using the MERTS software.
Q Will committees, required to file electronically, be assessed late filing fees if report/campaign statements are filed on paper?
Yes. A committee that is required under the Campaign Finance Act to submit reports/campaign statements electronically will be assessed a late filing fee if a report/campaign statement is not submitted electronically by the filing deadline.
Q How does the Secretary of State define when a report/campaign statement has been filed electronically?
A report/campaign statement has been electronically filed if it is filed over the Internet through the available port using the TCP/IP method of uploading into the specified filing server or, if loaded onto a disk and submitted to the Secretary of State, Bureau of Elections in Lansing. The file must originate from either the MERTS software or a software product that has been pre approved by the Bureau of Elections. Reports/Campaign statements submitted, via a file from Excel or Word, E-mail, fax, or paper copies printed from MERTS are not considered filed electronically.
Q Does MERTS allow data to be imported?
Yes. Names and addresses, as well as certain types of receipt and expenditure transactions, may be imported. Please refer to the MERTS Import Pack for instructions.
Q Does MERTS allow Names and Transactions created with the software to be exported?
Yes. Names and addresses, as well as certain types of receipt and expenditure transactions, may be exported. Please refer to the Exporting Transactions for instructions on exporting transactions or Exporting Names for instructions on exporting names.
Q Does MERTS allow for the one time entry of names and addresses of contributors and others into a database for recall whenever needed for future transactions?
Yes. Names and addresses (and for individuals, occupation and employer information) are entered one time into the Names tab. Each time a record for an individual, vendor, committee or other type of entity is needed for a receipt or expenditure transaction, the user selects the name from the dropdown. Name information may be modified to reflect a change such as a new street address.
Q Does MERTS allow the user to sort data by various factors such as date or amount?
Yes. Name records, or receipts and expenditure records may be sorted by a variety of different fields such as name, date, zip code and other fields.
Q Does MERTS identify errors in the report/campaign statement?
Yes. The software identifies common errors by use of the Validation Report. This report provides a warning for common errors such as missing address information and excess contributions. This allows the user to make corrections prior to filing the report/campaign statement.
Q What type of back up is provided in the case of lost data due to power surges, theft of computers or disk failures?
Committees are strongly urged to use the back-up feature within the software to create a back-up disk that will preserve the committee’s data in the event of these types of situations. The creation of a back up disk (with frequent updates) is the best guarantee against an unfortunate loss of data.
It is also recommended that the back-up disk be kept in a fire proof container away from the location of the committee computer.
Q Who should the committee contact if there are questions, problems or concerns?
Questions Concerning MERTS software:
Questions Concerning the Campaign Finance Act The Michigan Department of State, Bureau of Elections may be contacted for assistance with questions concerning the Michigan Campaign Finance Act:
For U.S. Mail:
Post Office Box 20126
Lansing, Michigan 48901–0726
For overnight delivery services, or to visit our office:
430 W. Allegan Street,
Richard H. Austin Building Ė 1st Floor
Lansing, Michigan 48918–1700
Michigan Campaign Finance Electronic Filing Password Assignment Online: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQís)
Q How many active passwords can each committee have?
Each committee can have one active password. The most recently issued password is the active password. To avoid confusion, committee members should share the password with other members that may be filing for the committee.
Q How often can the committee change its password?
A committee can request a new password once per day. A confirmation postcard will be sent to the committee at the committee mailing address. The password will not appear on the postcard.
Q How is the password changed?
The password is changed when the committee accesses and completes the password application.
Q Why do I have to enter my email address twice?
Entering your email address twice provides for a more accurate email. Since this is the way you will receive your password, it is imperative that the address you provide is accurate.
Q Why did the email with my password take so long to arrive?
Emails are sent from the Bureau of Elections almost instantaneously once you have completed the on-line training or completed the application process. Just like other emails, it must be routed to you and any issues that it may encounter when being transmitted applies. You may wish to contact your provider to see if there are any issues that can be addressed with receiving timely emails.
Q Does the Treasurerís Name have to be an exact match to what is on file with the Bureau of Elections?
Yes, the Treasurerís Name entered into the software must be an exact match to what is entered in the Bureau of Elections System. There are no special characters such as apostrophes or hyphens entered into the Bureau of Elections system. If after several attempts to enter the treasurerís name, you are still not able to complete the process, please contact the Bureau of Elections at 517–373–2540.
Q Why didnít my email get delivered to the address I specified?
There are a number of reasons that you may not have received our email. Emails are sent from the Bureau of Elections almost instantaneously once you have completed the online training or completed the application process. Just like other emails, it must be routed to you and any issues that it may encounter when being transmitted applies see below:
- ) As a service to you, some email providers block emails. You may wish to contact your provider to see if there are any issues that can be addressed with receiving timely emails from this application.
- ) Some emails are sent to your Spam folder by your Spam software. It is a good practice to check your Spam folder when emails do not arrive.
- ) Some emails are not delivered, as they have not been addressed correctly. It is important to double-check your email address to make sure it was entered correctly.
Q Is the same password used for filing Reports/Campaign Statements and other reports like Late Contribution Reports?
Yes. The same password for filing Reports/Campaign Statements via MERTS or some other vendor approved software is also used when filing reports such as Late Contribution Reports or other Immediate Disclosure Reports.
Q Who do I contact if I am having trouble with the online password application?
If you are not able to complete the password application, contact the MERTS Helpdesk at email@example.com or 517–373–2540.
Q I locked my report/campaign statement, but I haven’t filed it yet. How can I unlock it to make changes before filing.
Once a report/campaign statement has been locked changes can not be made. If possible upload the original report/campaign statement and immediately follow up with an amendment with the required changes. If you have received an error that will not allow you to upload the report/campaign statement without making the necessary changes please contact the Bureau of Elections to obtain a unique temporary password. Unclosing a report/campaign statement could cause the file to become corrupted, therefore bureau staff will ask the following questions to eliminate the risks:
1. Have you amended the report after it was closed and locked? 2. Have you amended any transactions within the report/campaign statement you wish to unlock? 3. What changes need to be made to the report/campaign statement?
Please be sure to back up the committee file before unclosing
Changes that can be made without having to unclose
- Adding Employer/Occupation Information for an individual who contributed $100.01 or more.
- Updating an address.