About the CARS Project

1. What is the CARS Project?

Project Update: “CARS” stands for CAL-ACCESS Replacement System. CAL-ACCESS stands for the California Automated Lobbying and Campaign Contribution Electronic Search System. The Secretary of State (SOS) has undertaken the CARS Project to implement a new system to replace the current CAL-ACCESS. In September of 2016, the Governor approved Senate Bill (SB) 1349. The bill directs the SOS to develop an online, data-driven filing and disclosure system.
Updated: January 2021

2. Why is the Current CAL-ACCESS system being replaced?

Originally implemented in 2000, the current CAL-ACCESS system is an amalgamation of component applications that were developed at different times using multiple, now obsolete, coding languages, platforms, and technologies. CAL-ACCESS users and stakeholder groups have identified the following business problems:

  • Program business operations are negatively affected by the current system design.
  • Program business operations are at risk due to an old, unsupported information technology platform.
  • PRD and stakeholders have limited information access and reporting capabilities.
  • Current system technological limitations restrict the ability to modify the current system to accommodate changes in the law.

The new and improved CAL-ACCESS will provide users a more efficient, sustainable system that is flexible, easier to use and allows heightened transparency into campaign and lobbying activity.
Updated: September 2018

3. When will the new CAL-ACCESS System be available for filers and public use?

Project Update: The new CAL-ACCESS will be available for filers and public use on June 30, 2021.
Updated: January 2021

4. Where can I find more information about the CARS Project?

You can find more information about the CARS Project at the following link: http://www.sos.ca.gov/campaign-lobbying/cal-access-replacement-system-project-cars-updates/

For those interested in providing comments or asking questions, please contact the Secretary of State via email at PRDCARS@sos.ca.gov, by phone at (916) 653-6224, or by writing to: Secretary of State, Political Reform Division, 1500 11th Street, Rm. 495, Sacramento, CA 95814.

We encourage you to sign up for the SOS electronic updates service to receive further project updates as they become available. Please click the "Sign up for e-updates" button on the CARS webpage linked above, provide your email and you will receive a welcome message from the SOS. Be sure to check the CAL-ACCESS Replacement System Project Updates checkbox and enter your email address.
Updated: September 2018

5. SB 1239 does not take effect until the new system is certified. When do you expect the new system to be certified?

Project Update: The new CAL-ACCESS is targeted for certification by the Secretary of State the day of external implementation (June 30, 2021).
Updated: January 2021

6. Will CAL-ACCESS be expanded to local filings?

The Secretary of State Political Reform Division completed a Local Filings Alternatives Analysis in 2017 to examine the feasibility of including local filings in a centralized statewide e-filing system like the new CAL-ACCESS. A centralized statewide e-filing system would involve coordinating 58 counties and 482 cities, a significant challenge in both development and deployment that would stretch the state’s financial resources and technological capacity. Consequently, it was decided the implementation of the new CAL-ACCESS would not include local filings at this time.
Updated: February 2019

Designing and Implementing the new CAL-ACCESS

1. What is the planned architecture for the new CAL-ACCESS?

The new CAL-ACCESS will be a cloud-based architecture that has been designed to accommodate higher transaction volumes during peak filing periods.
Updated: February 2019

2. Are stakeholders going to participate in the testing process?

Some impacted stakeholders will be invited to participate in our testing process.
Updated: September 2018

3. Will you be taking input from stakeholders on how the system should be designed?

We held two public forums in 2016 to gain input from external stakeholders. There are no current plans to hold additional forums.
Updated: September 2018

4. How do new filers obtain a username and password? Is a username and password unique to the filing entity, or will filing officers need to obtain their own username and password?

In the new CAL-ACCESS, a username and password will be required for each individual submitting data on behalf of a filing entity. Officers required to attest for filings will be required to establish a registered user account with a unique username and password. The process for obtaining a username and password will be communicated at a later date.
Updated: Ocotober 2020

5. When will users receive training to establish an account or submit filings?

The system integrator is currently developing training aids and materials. External user electronic instructional guides will be available online.  Once the training aids and materials are complete we will make an announcement on the project page that is visible to the public for review.
Updated: January 2021

6. I am a public user. Will you be asking end-users what is needed by a public user?

Prior to the commencement of the CARS Project, we held two public forums to gain input from external users. We continue to design and build the system in consultation with the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) and a variety of stakeholder groups.
Updated: August 2020

7. Besides the two public forums, did SOS consider any other input from stakeholders when designing the new CAL-ACCESS?

In addition to the valuable input gathered during the public forums in 2016, the CARS team conducted market research and industry benchmark analyses and received emailed and written correspondence from stakeholders, including campaign and lobbying filers, state agencies, public interest advocates and vendors approved to provide electronic filing in California. The CARS team read and considered the feasibility of each suggestion. Of 282 comments collected, 159 suggestions or comments became system requirements for the new CAL-ACCESS. The remainder of the suggestions and comments were largely redundant, non-specific, or outside the current scope of the project or domain of the Secretary of State.
Updated: February 2019

8. Is the new solution based on Salesforce?

Yes, Salesforce is the platform (along with other appropriate software).
Updated: August 2020

9. Who is the prime vendor working with Salesforce?

Outreach Solutions as a Service (OSaaS)
Updated: August 2020

10. When is the old CARS system being shut down?

We are not identifying a date yet because we want to ensure that the data is migrated successfully and historical data will be readily accessible. Once CARS is completely implemented and functioning, we will establish a date for retirement of the legacy system.
Updated: August 2020

11. Will clients be able to amend reports that they filed using the old system in the new system? If so, when will clients be able to amend reports in the new system for reports the client originally filed in the old system?

Assuming reports in this question are the same as filings, the project team is anticipating the clients will be able to amend old filings in the new system, as all the filing data will be migrated to the new system.
Updated: August 2020

12. When is the last filing date a client can file a report using the old system?

Once the new CAL-ACCESS is implemented to external users (June 30, 2021), filers must use the new system; and, paper submittals will no longer be accepted. There will be a cutover period where neither system will be available. The specific dates have not yet been determined. Those dates will be communicated to the filing community as the date gets closer.
Updated: January 2021

13. Will historical data/information be accessible in the new CAL-ACCESS?

Yes, we will migrate filing information from legacy CAL-ACCESS to the new CAL-ACCESS.
Updated: October 2020

14. Will the new CAL-ACCESS contain historical filings now accessible from the public website?

The SOS will comply with the statutory requirements for available documentation as the new CAL-ACCESS goes live.  
Updated: October 2020

15. Is the goal for the switch between the existing and new systems to be seamless?

We are planning for transition to the new CAL-ACCESS  to be seamless; however, there may be a one-week period immediately before the “go-live” date when there is limited access.
Updated: October 2020

16. Has SOS considered incorporating features from the Federal Election Commission (FEC) website into the new CAL-ACCESS?

When considering features to include in the new CAL-ACCESS, the CARS team solicited input from a diverse group of stakeholders and conducted market research and industry benchmark analyses. The market research was conducted on systems used by other states of similar size whose systems had received high scores for data content and usability in a study conducted by the UCLA School of Law, the Center for Governmental Studies and the California Voter Foundation. Because the Federal Election Commission website is not a state based system, it was not included in market research and no specific features of the FEC website were researched for inclusion in the new CAL-ACCESS.
Updated: February 2019

Electronic Filing in the new CAL-ACCESS


1. Is this going to impact how I currently provide information to the Secretary of State?

Yes. The CAL-ACCESS replacement system will automate forms and some business processes will change, requiring a change in the way you provide and access lobbying and campaign information in the future.
Updated: September 2018


2. Will filers be required to file electronically regardless of activity or threshold amounts? Will paper filings cease completely after implementation of the new system?

Per SB 1239, all filings will be required to be filed electronically regardless of activity or threshold amounts.
Updated: January 2021

3. Will the new system allow filers to validate their data entry prior to submission in order to prevent filing errors?

Yes, filers submitting individual filings will be able to view a draft version of their electronic document and make changes prior to submission.
Updated: February 2019

4. Since filers will no longer submit paper forms, how can filers be confident that filings are not changed by software updates to the new CAL-ACCESS?

The new CAL-ACCESS will allow authorized users to enter data for filings required to support the business function similar to filing a paper form. Once the data is entered, the user has the ability to review it in a PDF Version of the form prior to final submission. Once a filing is submitted, a PDF version of the data in this form format is saved within the system.
Updated: February 2019

Electronic Filing in the new CAL-ACCESS via Third Party Software

1. What is the process for being certified 3rd party vendor on the new system?

The Secretary of State adopted new regulations for software vendor certification. Please review the regulations for additional information at: https://www.sos.ca.gov/administration/regulations/.

Software vendors can complete registration online via the Filer Portal. When completing the online registration, all vendors will select “Initial Certification” when registering in the new system starting June 30, 2021. Subsequently, as recertification is required due to software changes/updates, vendors will select “Recertify.”
Updated: February 2021

2. How long does certification take?

We do not have a set time frame for certification. Timelines will likely be unique to each software vendor based on the number or severity of issues encountered in testing the interactions between a software vendor’s system and the new CAL-ACCESS. For software vendors that timely begin the certification process, the plan is that certification will be complete prior to the new CAL-ACCESS going live.
Updated: August 2020

3. How do filers authorize 3rd party vendors to file on their behalf?

Each filer (individual signer/verifier) will need to complete a one-time authorization for a vendor to act on their behalf. There are two ways filers can complete the authorization; at the time of the first software vendor filing submission (the system will notify the filer and ask for confirmation), or the filer can complete the authorization in the Filer Portal.
Updated: February 2021

4. Do 3rd Party software vendors have to be certified for clients to file their reports using the new filing system?

Yes. Any data filed using the API must be done via a certified software vendor’s software. We are now creating a distinction between software vendors and service providers. Service providers will not need to be certified to use the API but must use software prepared by a certified software vendor.
Updated: August 2020

5. Do you have an ETA as to when the spec document will be ready for the new filing system?

The specifications for the API are currently available to designated software vendor testers in the testing tool. The CARS project team is finalizing the specifications documentation, which will be available upon the external new CAL-ACCESS implementation date (June 30, 2021).  Please reach out to us at PRDCARS@sos.ca.gov to participate in the software vendor certification process.
Updated: January 2021

6. Will API submissions made from Vendors to CARS be complete filing documents, or a collection of data elements the CARS system converts into filing documents?

The certification will be to the data sent through the API, not the form or document. We are looking into data verification options prior to submission; which may include previewing the data as it appears on an FPPC form. Ultimately, the data is what the filer is certifying.
Updated: August 2020

7. Will the vendors’ transaction IDs be stored as part of the electronically uploaded file?

Updated: February 2019

8. Are you changing the PDFs for the CA reports?

The FPPC is set to adopt updated forms to reflect changes in the Political Reform Act that will go into effect once the new CAL-ACCESS is certified by the SOS. These revised forms, once approved by the Commission, will be added to CAL-ACCESS in the months after go-live. The forms proposed by the FPPC can be viewed at: https://www.fppc.ca.gov/about-fppc/hearings-meetings-workshops/interested-persons-meetings.html
Updated: December 2020

9. Will filers using third party vendors need to use the CAL-ACCESS portal to file Statements of Organization (Form 410)?

At the time of external implementation (June 30, 2021), filers forming new committees will have the ability to file Statements of Organization (FPPC Form 410) via third party software vendors.
Updated: January 2021

10. How will bulk electronic filers correct data previously uploaded to the new CAL-ACCESS?

Prior to submission/ filing, data entry may be edited and saved until satisfactory. Once submitted/ filed, it can be changed by an amendment process, at which time the transaction will be considered an amended filing.
Updated: February 2019

User Support in the new CAL-ACCESS

1. Will there be a single point of contact for users requiring system support?

Users requiring system support will be able to contact a centralized helpdesk for support.
Updated: February 2019

2. Will data from the old system be available after the new CAL-ACCESS is implemented?

SOS will migrate data from the legacy CAL-ACCESS to the new CAL-ACCESS.
Updated: February 2019

3. Will the raw data zip file be available in the new CAL-ACCESS?

Updated: February 2019

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