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PolTrack.org - New Congressional Report Cards

Update September 2021 A prototype version of PolTrack is now available. Try it out and let us know if you have any comments or suggestions.

Our Congressional Report Cards web site is going away. For more than 20 years, the site has done what it was designed to do – help its 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.

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 other elected officials starting with the U.S. President.

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.

PolTrack will support crowdsourcing of content where any VIS member will be able to contribute information about the actions of our politicians.

Additional Political Actions

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.

Minimize Information Overload

Everybody suffers from it, and we want to reduce it for our users. Most sites are funded by advertising and are 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 subscription fees that cover the cost of operating our website. That means our primary design goal is to make it as easy as possible for you to get the information you want.

“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.  We will also add a state-of-the-art content search.

Questions or suggestions?

Last updated: February 2021