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Wouldn't it be awesome
March 9, 2001 3:57 PM   Subscribe

Wouldn't it be awesome if there were a web site where you could see the actual voting records of elected officials?
posted by snakey (19 comments total)

 
When I was working at msnbc.com a few years back, my last project was just this. I left the place when it was still being finished. (funny enough it's still online, though woefully outdated). It was all cross-referenced from a SQL database, so you could see all the votes on one bill, or all the bills one legislator voied on, with links to stories, etc. My god that was a nightmare to maintain though. Legislators changing names, filtering out the important votes from the trivial (there are many trivial procedural or parliamentary votes almost every day), tracking massive changes during an election, etc.

There are a number of sites that still do some form of record tracking, including my least favorite: Voter Information Services, which can lay claim to one of the worst UI designs ever - yes, you have to mouse over the tiny purple chads to get the date for a particular votes roll call number.
posted by kokogiak at 4:09 PM on March 9, 2001


Papers in my state print votes for its elected officials on all major issues. More often than not, though, what we get is a statement in other papers that the Republicans voted in bloc for this and that and there were 4 or so defections (names given) among the Democrats.
the idea Nader suggest is a good one andl egitimate, but the two party system is, Mr Nader had suggested, really but one party and thus I am a bit surpirsed that he wants to distinguish between votes from the One party.
posted by Postroad at 4:13 PM on March 9, 2001


There are a handful of honest politicians out there. All the rest are a bunch of corporate pawns. I used to just figure that any republican was a tool of big business, but after Gary Johnson spoke out in favor of legalizing marijuana, I can't necessarily say that all republicans are evil.

That's why having voting records online would be so cool. I'd rather use that as the basis for my vote than simple party affiliation.
posted by snakey at 4:34 PM on March 9, 2001


Project Vote Smart has some good records re: issue based voting, you just have to drill down a bit.
posted by owillis at 5:18 PM on March 9, 2001


"Microsoft VBScript runtime error '800a000d'

Type mismatch: 'Std_SetCookieNoesc'

/m/inc/guid.inc, line 74
"

Wooohoo! Go MSFT! ;-)
posted by muppetboy at 7:08 PM on March 9, 2001


I find the Internet to be one of the less reliable means of collecting valid data and wouldn't trust anyone to be more honest with the reporting votes than the major networks were with the last election--with the sole exception of a government entity (.gov) and even then it could be a simple slip of the html author/database entry expert. Valid data is more important than just having some.
posted by greyscale at 7:14 PM on March 9, 2001


yeah, hasn't vote-smart been doing that for years? i assumed they have some sort of online outlet for those records.

i'm sorry, and not to stray too far offtopic but i'm not sure how you can look at those voting records and say that the parties are the same. yes, they are uncomfortably close thanks to downs' model of rational choice (oooo, someone's in ap government!) but abortion? different. gun control? different. environment? different. yes, soft money in campaigns is awful and should be stopped. but just because corporations are awful is no reason to sacrifice the lamb of ideology, in my opinion. there are still very large differences in the implementation of solutions. ex: everyone wants to end crime. the two parties' solutions are pretty different.

every time i read about some awful thing republicans are doing, i can't help but think to myself, "gosh, it's a good thing the parties aren't exactly the same. it seems republicans have installed faith-based charity! not democrats, but republicans! and cutting off aid to abortion-information-providing agencies? that was republicans! i really doubt that gore would have done that despite his Ownership by viacom/pepsi/time/warner/aol/abc/god!" i have often questioned nader's aims. i would vote for him based on ideology in another system. but if his aims are to change the system and sacrifice ideology to the republicans, then he would not get my vote.
posted by pikachulolita at 7:27 PM on March 9, 2001


Just in defense of Nader, I thought he made it clear during the election that he supported a lot of the Democratic congressional candidates over their Republican opponents. Candidates in smaller races have substantially more freedom than presidential candidates. I see real differences between the parties, but the differences between Clinton and Bush still seem mostly cosmetic to me. Voting for Nader this year, and accepting a minor loss in the presidential election, was, for me at least, a way of making a still greater victory possible in the next election, by bringing attention to issues that would otherwise be ignored. The sacrifice is only good because it's temporary. But then, my political views are kind of out there, so I can't blame anyone for disagreeing with me on this.

ObOnTopic: While they don't have voting records for individual congressmen (congresspeople? congressbeings?), the Senate and the House both have complete records of how every member voted in every roll call vote available online. If you want information about a particular politician, I suspect Vote Smart is the way to go.
posted by moss at 12:53 AM on March 10, 2001


> i'm not sure how you can look at those voting records
> and say that the parties are the same.

Hurrah for Bridgie!

People who don't care who wins are people who don't care. And if you're going to vote -- because you do care who wins -- you can't throw your vote away on no-chance candidates. Votes for Nader got us nadir.
posted by pracowity at 1:40 AM on March 10, 2001


Type mismatch: 'Std_SetCookieNoesc'

Wooohoo! Go MSFT!


Oh yeah, it couldn't possibly be programmer error. No way.

if you're going to vote -- because you do care who wins -- you can't throw your vote away on no-chance candidates. Votes for Nader...

Don't be silly, of course you can. If none of the candidates "with a chance" are acceptable, is it better to sit it out or to vote for the candidate who is acceptable? Obviously the only solution for someone who really cares is to vote for that candidate, even if they probably will lose, not one of the unacceptable ones just because they're probably going to win. Your argument makes no sense.
posted by daveadams at 1:51 PM on March 10, 2001


If none of the candidates "with a chance" are acceptable, is it better to sit it out or to vote for the candidate who is acceptable?

ask some poor third-world woman who now can't get an abortion what she thinks of this issue. methinks we are too idealistic about our political system. and methinks that pracowity's (hurrah pracowity!) argument makes plenty of sense.

and moss, i love ya dearly, but to me, abortion isn't a cosmetic issue. i feel kind of petty having one issue be such a dealbreaker, but from where i'm sitting, i have no choice.
posted by pikachulolita at 2:24 PM on March 10, 2001


Back to a database of votes, my employer (Congressional Quarterly) has been doing it for years, and it takes a good amount of time and effort -- we have two people who simply enter and check votes in our database. Because we're one of the only folks who do this, we charge a ton of dough for the information. But the design of the votes database isn't that difficult: we use three tables (members, votes and vote positions) in a relational database.
posted by thescoop at 3:55 PM on March 10, 2001


Here it is. Seems like Nader should've know this one.

http://thomas.loc.gov/
posted by Witold at 6:52 PM on March 10, 2001


Sure, put the votes online. I have no problem with that. But I know that Nader, the NRA, NOW, and any other lobbying group will pick votes out of context, attack that Congressman and use the information for fundraising. More data doesn't mean more information, and more information doesn't mean more wisdom.
posted by shackbar at 8:47 PM on March 10, 2001


ask some poor third-world woman who now can't get an abortion what she thinks of this issue. methinks we are too idealistic about our political system. and methinks that pracowity's (hurrah pracowity!) argument makes plenty of sense

methinks that there is more than one issue at stake in any election. You presume too much when you assume that all Nader supporters agree with you about how important particular issues are in the grand scheme of things, or that they agree with you on the issues at all.
posted by daveadams at 6:03 PM on March 11, 2001


well, since i'm fairly well ideologically aligned with nader, i'd say that they probably agree with me on some issues or else they're just voting for him because he's ralph nader.

and of course there are other issues. i was just making a point about one wherein bush's actions have already been markedly different from what i believe gore would have done.

by idealistic, i meant that this whole debate about nader vs. gore really comes down to what you think your vote means. i personally believe that a vote in an election is a practical vote for who you think should win, that it's tempered by a value analysis of the other candidates; comparison shopping, if you will. the people who voted for nader that i've talked to think it's a statement, a vote for who you think should win. obviously, i belong in the first camp. truth be told, if nader had had a shot in hell i would have voted for him, but i cared too much about the actual issues rather than statements not to vote against good ol' dubya.
posted by pikachulolita at 11:34 PM on March 11, 2001


i meant that this whole debate about nader vs. gore really comes down to what you think your vote means .... i cared too much about the actual issues

Again, why do you presume that all people who ended up voting for Nader agree with you on what you call "the actual issues"? It isn't necessarily about idealism versus practicality. On many, many issues, there was no real difference between Gore and Bush, and if those are the important issues to a person, voting for someone other than Nader certainly wouldn't help Nader or the Green party in the future, whether or not Nader had a chance. And if a person's perspective is that Gore is just as vile or moreso than Bush, why would they ever vote for him? From a practical point of view for many voters, Nader was the best/only choice.

I'm not trying to convince you that you should have voted for Nader, but it doesn't seem like you acknowledge that someone might potentially vote for Nader for practical, not just ideological, reasons.
posted by daveadams at 8:32 AM on March 12, 2001


i guess what i can't wrap my mind around is the fact that a person who would support nader couldn't see that bush was so much more evil than gore.
posted by pikachulolita at 2:11 PM on March 12, 2001


Hahahahhah!
Perhaps they supported Nader for different reasons than you.
posted by sonofsamiam at 2:13 PM on March 12, 2001


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