Despite the commonly extolled idea of elected officials serving their constituents, it can be hard for people to find and judge the voting records of the representatives they elect into office. ProPublica changed that today with the launch of Represent, a new interactive database that makes it easy to keep track of who your elected representatives in Congress are and what they do.
The project is the continuation of the New York Times’ Inside Congress database – which ProPublica has taken over, starting today – that focused on bills and votes. Under ProPublica’s management, the database has been renamed and expanded to include profile pages for each elected official with their latest votes, legislation they support, and statistics about their voting: how often a member of the House or Senate votes against a majority of her party colleagues, for example, and the percentage of votes they missed.
Represent additionally takes advantage of new legislative bulk data produced by the Library of Congress and the Government Printing Office to make the process of updating the data more consistent and less reliant on scraping various congressional sites.
Beyond taking over the New York Times’ Inside Congress database, ProPublica is also newly running the Congressional API started by the Times in 2009. This tool allows developers to use data on congressional votes to build their own apps. In January, ProPublica took over management of the New York Times’ Campaign Finance API, which similarly allows developers to build apps using data on campaign finance.
“As we move forward we want to add much more data to help you understand how your elected officials represent you, the incentives that drive them and the issues they care about,” ProPublica news applications developer Derek Willis said in a blog post outlining Represent. Willis previously maintained the Times’ Inside Congress database, as well as the Congressional API and Campaign Finance API, before joining ProPublica last year.
For details on how to use ProPublica’s new congressional data, see Willis’ ProPublica Nerd Blog post, A New Way to Keep an Eye on Who Represents You in Congress.