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PolTrack.org - New Congressional Report Cards

Our Congressional Report Cards site has not changed much since 2000. During all these years, it has done exactly what it was designed to do – help users learn about the legislation supported or opposed by individual members of the U.S. Congress.

Since then, the information technology has changed dramatically and offers exciting new opportunities. It is time for new Congressional Report Cards. Here is a summary of the Report Cards re-design we want to complete by the end of 2019, in time for the 2020 elections.

PolTrack.org

The name of the website is being changed to PolTrack.org to reflect its expanded scope.

In addition to the U.S. Congress, the site will be able to track the actions of all politicians. We will start with the President and the vice-President, followed by all other elected officials, down to the local school board members, soon after.

Crowdsourcing of Content

The key part of the Report Cards is the information about the legislation considered by the U.S. Congress from more than 90 advocacy groups. Currently we at VIS re-enter all legislation descriptions published by the groups. This has become a bottleneck preventing us from including more sources of information.

The new Poltrack will use a crowdsourcing model where anyone will be able to become a Report Card Information Provider, contribute information about the actions of our politicians, and have it published on PolTrack. VIS will still perform an editorial review of all submitted information to ensure high quality of the content on the website.

Allow Any Political Action

The report cards are all about verifiable actions taken by our elected officials. Currently, the report cards can support only the following types of actions that member of Congress can take:

  • Recorded roll votes on the floor of the House or Senate.
  • Sponsorship of proposed legislation.

While doing their job of writing “good” laws, members of Congress can take other actions such as voting in committees and signing “Dear Colleague” letters.  The new PolTrack will support those as well as the actions that the President, vice-President, and any other politician can take while in office.

Fight Information Overload

Everybody suffers from it, and we want to reduce it for our users. Unlike most other sites optimized to maximize the number of times they can sell your eyeballs to an advertiser, we will continue with our business model based on modest subscriptions that cover the cost of operating our website. That means our design goal is to make it as easy as possible for you to get the information you want so that you can go on with your life (and stop using the site's resources :).

Currently, this includes infrequent email notifications of our site updates sent to our subscribers. In the future, you will be able to request more customized notifications such as when new information becomes available for a politicians of interest.

“Back-end” Improvements

The improvements described above will result in a substantial increase in the amount of data and the number of users the site will need to handle. The new PolTrack will therefore have a new, much more powerful “back end” (the invisible part of the system that does most the work) to support the new functionality.

Questions or suggestions?

Last updated: June 2018