ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Although the November election for four city council seats is still months away, the race is well underway. This year, election officials have increased their efforts to ensure a fair election.

To run for city council, candidates have two options: raise money for their campaign themselves or qualify for public financing. This year, most candidates are running on public funds – and the city stepped up their auditing of that funding this year.

“Essentially the internal audit department was, every week, doing an in-person audit of a percentage of the qualifying contributions received in relation to each candidate for public financing,” says City Clerk Ethan Watson. “So, they’d literally go out and knock on doors.”

Auditors went around double-checking that members of the public really were signing on to support candidates. That support from the public is required in order to qualify for public funds.

“Candidates all responded quickly to our request for information,” Watson adds. “We have resolved all of the issues, and that process worked incredibly well.”

On top of door-knocking audits, the city also required more financial transparency from candidates.

“One thing we did this year in relation to the campaign finance statement was: We required the candidates to submit bank statements with their campaign finance reports to us,” Watson says. “This, I think, was a significant improvement because it gave us greater insights into their filings and also just assisted us in auditing those filings as well.”

As the city council candidates ramp up their campaigns, Watson and his staff will continue to monitor the finances behind those candidates. And Watson says the city plans on improving audits even more for coming election years.