Open States gathers legislative data from all 50 states | Opensource.com

Open States gathers legislative data from all 50 states

Posted 21 Feb 2013 by 

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After more than four years of work from volunteers and a full-time team here at Sunlight we're immensely proud to launch the full Open States site with searchable legislative data for all 50 states, D.C., and Puerto Rico. Open States is the only comprehensive database of activities from all state capitols that makes it easy to find your state lawmaker, review their votes, search for legislation, track bills, and much more.

If you're interested in your state lawmaker, you'll be able to get notifications for their actions, a map of their district, voting records, committee assignments, campaign finance records from Influence Explorer, local news articles, and contact information. If you're curious about a particular piece of legislation, Open States allows you to check on its status, find the sponsors, break down votes, view bill text and all supporting documents. Our powerful search capabilities allow you to find similar topics across states and view overview pages for each state, chamber, and committee.

Each state's website has different quirks and the process of collecting and scraping legislative data into one unified, reliable, and machine-readable format was a long and challenging process. Here's a brief video about the story behind Open States:

To get started visit OpenStates.org and enter any U.S. address, browse a state from the drop-down, or enter a term you're interested in into the search box in the top right corner. For a more thorough walkthrough of the site, please join us for a free training webinar on Friday, February 22 from 1-2pm.

Legislative information is also available for previous and special sessions, making Open States an important archive of data that often disappears when a new session begins or a new state website is unveiled. The archives will vary from state to state based on when we scraped their sites and how much information they display.

Open States also has a companion iPhone and iPad app to easily browse the data on the go. All the data seen in Open States is available through our API or by bulk download and the code is open sourced and available on GitHub. If you are interested in contributing to the project, feel free to join the Open States Google Group. Some notable uses of Open States data includes NPR's StateImpact project and this visualization from MinnPost.com.

The Open States project would not be possible without the help of our volunteers and the generous financial support from the Rita Allen Foundation, Minnesota Historical Society, and Open Society Foundations.

Originally posted on the Sunlight Foundation blog. Reposted under Creative Commons.

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Nicko Margolies is the Projects Coordinator at the Sunlight Foundation. He works closely with Sunlight's in-house developers on projects before they are public and helps ensure a smooth transition to launch. He earned his Bachelor of Arts in History from Kenyon College and grew up on the mean streets of Dupont Circle.

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