As of tonight, VoteReports allows report creators and interest groups to add amendments to a report’s legislative agenda. After all, amendments can make a major impact on the ultimate effect of a bill.
To add an amendment to the report, just use the bill finder to search for your bill:
Any bill that has related amendments will have a link next to it “(amendments)”. Click that link, and you’ll get a pop-up with the amendments for that bill:
As with bills, you can click the little “url” link on the side to add a link to supporting information.
After scoring is complete, any score which includes votes on that amendment will show right alongside those for bills - you’ll be able to tell the amendments because they start with “S.Amdt.” or “H.Amdt.”. The end result will look something like this, when you click on a score:
We hope this amendment support means advocates can do a better job of capturing their perspective in the form of a report, to give a more accurate picture of the candidates. And in any case, we’ll be adding amendments to the interest groups over the next few months. Check out our first example:
Right this moment, we have hundreds of interest group report cards, based on their ratings over the years. But there are real limitations to these report cards so far.
Immediacy: Probably the worst problem is that the interest groups only release ratings every year or two, at best, which means we go long stretches of time without knowing how are reps are really doing out there in D.C., particularly for new reps.
Clarity: In addition, it’s not always clear why a rep would get an “A” from this group but a “C” from the other. Documenting and explaining these take time and hard work which often isn’t done.
But there’s a good reason interest groups haven’t addressed these problems: they’re doing everything they can to fight the good fight for their cause - which often means they can’t easily find the time to keep in constant contact with their constituency.
We took a big step toward solving this problem for interest groups this weekend, by enabling interest groups to have legislative agendas, just like user-created report cards have all along.
Take a look at the League of Conservation Voters, for example. We took almost 20 bills from their 2009 & 2008 report cards, and we added them to the hundreds of interest group ratings from 1995 on that we already had on their report. This enables us to grade dozens of politicians who never otherwise been rated by the LCV. Politicians like Jared Polis, of CO-2, who took office a year and a half ago, in 2009, yet has hardly been rated. It also brings us up-to-the-minute ratings for politicians who have been in office longer, and who may have mad a turn for the better (or worse) since the last ratings.
Along with this, we have our first legislation-only interest group report, for the National Right to Work Committee. It’s the first of hundreds of new interest groups we’ll be adding over the next few months. Ultimately all these new interest group reports will show themselves in our Causes and Voter Guide.
We think this is a big step - it’s a step away from infrequent, indirect scrutiny of politicians, and toward the easy, constantly available, constantly up-to-date information on the same. We certainly look forward to seeing people use it. And when you do, dont’ be shy, we’d love to hear your story.
As we constantly refine and expand on VoteReports, one of the things I’ve had my eye on is terms on the politician page. Take, for instance, good ol’ Chuck:
Chuck’s had a busy few decades, running for office again and again non-stop from the time he was straight out of law school, a sprightly young 23 year old state legislator. The trouble is, we haven’t even included his terms in state office yet, and it’s already neither pretty nor readable to list all those terms out individually. So now, in a nice little tweak, we group them together when they share all the relevant details:
Also, you can hover over each entry to see how many years and terms are represented by each. Enjoy!
Recently I had my first opportunity to do a quick demo of VoteReports. Lucky for me, given that new features are coming in all the time, I can look forward to the demos getting more interesting & fun as time rolls on. That’s certainly something to look forward to. :-)
Some of the most fun we have on this site is adding new visual goodies for making it easier to know.
Tonight, we added our first charts to the site. In this case, historical charts for interest group ratings:
Every interest group report score (e.g. 29%, in the example above) is built on a whole set of historical ratings that interest group has given. We smooth out the edges and summarize them with a current score which consider the whole history between the politician and the interest group.
Before today, you could see all those ratings by hovering over any interest group report score and you’d get a listing of all those ratings, in text. But seeing it visually is much easier on the eyes, and we think tells a better story of the history.
You can hover over any of those points, and you’ll see details for that rating:
Again, from our end It’s nice to see these little features come to light. But it’s just a hint of what’s to come. Here’s to making it easy to know.
Do you know which congressional district is yours? It wasn’t long ago that I didn’t. But in plenty of cases, your zip code might overlap with several congressional districts. So how do you know then which of them is yours?
We decided to address this by making it easy for you to see your district. Now, when you see a politician, as always we list the state or a congressional district they represent (in parentheses, e.g. “(HI)” for Hawaii or “(OH-1)” for Ohio’s first congressional district. But unlike before, now when you hover over that state or district, we’ll show you a map:
And when you click that link it will send you to the state or district page on VoteReports (e.g.), which shows all the Senators and Representatives representing that area.
And when you go to a politician page (e.g.), you’ll see the district they’re representing, front and center:
This is all to help you know who is representing you, as they’re the ones you should be holding to account.
Historically on VoteReports, there were just 2 ways to search for politicians by location. You could enter your zip code, or you could enter your state.
Now this is good for a lot of folks, but it’s not quite easy enough. What if I don’t know the zip code? Or I’m curious about how another town down the road is represented? What about seeing all the representatives for my one city, not just that of the zip code I live in?
Now you can put in a city, for example: “albuquerque” or “Austin, TX”, and we’ll show you all the representatives for that city. Here you can see the 31 politicians representing New York state, whereas here are the 8 representing Brooklyn, NY.
Best of all, you can use the same searching to navigate report scores. For example, here are the representatives of Brooklyn, as rated by the League of Conservation Voters.
It’s just one small step towards making it easier to find & know your reps.
We’ve had some downtime over the past 24 hours, due to pushing out some great new features which exposed some underlying problems. Things should be working now, so you can check out the new features: Interest Groups, and Interest Group Reports thanks to data from fellow travelers Project Vote Smart.
Looking over this list of new features, we’re thrilled with all the progress we’ve seen, and we’re excited to think of all the possibilities to be covered between now and November. Trust us, we’ve got big plans!
But we’re not perfect, and we know there are lots of ways to make VoteReports easier to use and more helpful. If you have one, don’t keep it to yourself! Go to our feedback page and let us know! Really, we’re always curious to hear!
If you believe in what we’re doing and have time to offer, we’d love to have your help. In particular, we need all the help we can muster from writers, designers, programmers, researchers and anyone interested in community engagement & promotions. Send us an email at email@example.com, and we’ll be sure to follow up.
Log In or Sign Up with Facebook, Google, Twitter, &c. &c.: Until recently, in order to create a report you had to create an account with an email address and password. But we don’t think you should have to keep track of a million passwords for a million different websites (even important ones like VoteReports ;-)). Now, you can login using any of the many accounts you already have.
You can also associate your logins from other sites with your existing account on VoteReports, from your “Edit profile” page.