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Lance Robinson is a software engineer in Durham, Chapel Hill, Raleigh, and surrounding areas. More about Lance.

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Who is it? Who is starving for an API or a set of dynamic feeds? Why, the United States Congress, of course!

I know what my state senators did last summerThink about it...do you know what your state senators did last summer? Or your house representative? You might know their positions on the big issues - but what about the ones that don't get big attention in the press? Are they just a pawn voting down the party lines? Are they hiding something?  Are they acting contrary to how they campaigned?  Are they ignoring the opinions of their constituents and voting with their wallet?  Are they lying to the people?

You can't even find their votes on the officials' own websites (big shocker there, right?)! If you want to find this information now, you can go to the US Senate or US House pages and painstakingly search, or there there are a few organizations that also provide records, but none of them in a very usable format IMO.

The vote-smart website is great. My question is - why don't they have some open API that software and website developers can use to retrieve voting records programmatically? If they did - what a great way to get the information out there (right now, as far as I know the only way to find this stuff is to dig for it at one of a handful of websites) and get the vote-smart name and message out there. Look at what is happening on the web right now with all the mashups and grass roots projects taking shape. What if that kind of web 2.0-ish mashed up grass roots mentality focused on our political system? It could be made very easy for people to stay informed on how their representatives are voting, who they are being lobbied by, who is sponsoring mega resolutions with all sorts of hidden agendas and piggy-backing tidbits being hidden from the people.

Vote-Smart does have an RSS feed, and that is great. That single feed is informational but nothing like it could be. I'd love to see dynamic feeds for each congress-person (ie http://www.vote-smart.org/rss/votingrecord.php?member=MyCongressmansName) and each vote. Also the feeds could make use of syndication extensions to provide more modular information that can be easily parsed out by software developers instead of being limited in its use to being read by a human in a feed reader. For example besides just a description element containing all the information in html format - add a "vs" (vote-smart") namespace prefix to the feed and use things like Bill Sponsor, H.R.####, S.#, and numberofyeavotes, etc.

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Posted on Tuesday, August 29, 2006 9:44 AM General | Back to top


Comments on this post: US Congress: The single-most API needy organization in the world

# re: US Congress: The single-most API needy organization in the world
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They do now!
Left by Yoni on Nov 29, 2007 3:37 PM

# re: US Congress: The single-most API needy organization in the world
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Yeah, they have one now. Pretty neat. http://www.vote-smart.org/services_api.php
Left by Dan on Dec 17, 2007 5:45 PM

# re: US Congress: The single-most API needy organization in the world
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Vote Smart is a private company. The government needs to ante up and let the automators of the world see what there doing.... It is our government, and our country, we have a right to access the data. I only fear the databases either don't exist or, are a nightmare of poorly designed p_keys.
Left by Martin on Dec 06, 2008 10:13 AM

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