Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Connect 2 Congress lets Americans track their senators, one vote at a time

Date:
April 12, 2010
Source:
Georgia Institute of Technology
Summary:
Most Americans know who the President is, but fewer can name their US Senators or Representatives. Even fewer can name how their congressional representatives voted on specific bills. And if you ask most people how many bills their members have sponsored or co-sponsored, you'd most likely be given a blank stare.

Most of us know who the President is, but fewer can name their U.S. Senators or Representatives. Even fewer can name how their congressional representatives voted on specific bills. And if you ask most people how many bills their members have sponsored or co-sponsored, you'd most likely be given a blank stare.

So, if it's our civic duty to keep up with what our government is up to, how exactly do we do that? Peter Kinnaird, master's student in Georgia Tech's College of Computing, wondered the same thing and came up with a program that makes keeping up with one's representatives as easy as clicking a mouse. The system, Connect 2 Congress, will be presented at CHI 2010, the Association for Computing Machinery's Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, being held at the Hyatt Regency Atlanta, April 10-15.

"In the 110th Congress, which is 2007-08, there were about 14,000 bills and 2,500 votes that took place. How can anyone wrap their head around what all those bills mean? We created Connect 2 Congress to simplify all that," said Kinnaird.

The system works by analyzing congressional voting records with a type of mathematical analysis known as a Poole-Rosenthal score. Connect 2 Congress looks at all the votes that take place over that session of Congress and assigns values to it. Each yes vote gets a one and each no gets a zero. Those who don't vote are given a nine, which excludes them from the count for that issue.

"It doesn't matter whether the issue is to recognize a community college for its great service or if it's the healthcare bill, each roll call vote is counted the same," said Kinnaird.

Once these numbers are assigned, the system lines up a string of ones and zeros that represent each person's voting record and create a fingerprint of sorts for each member.

"When we do this, we don't know who the person casting the vote is, what party they belong to, what race or ethnicity. All we know is that the vote was cast," said Kinnaird. "We compare them with all of the other votes being cast, and by doing that we can rank people from liberal to conservative without any of that other knowledge. The results are displayed on a graph so that users can get a quick picture of Congress, or examine changes in behavior over time."

Among a few interesting uses, voters can use the system to see how well the parties' votes align at different points in the session. They can also see whether their representatives vote with their party or go off on their own.

In addition to showing where each member fits on the political spectrum, Connect 2 Congress also conducts a leadership analysis on each member.

"So, if you sponsor a bill you get a full point, and if you co-sponsor a bill you get anywhere from no points to a full point, depending on when you attached your name to it," said Kinnaird.

The system updates a few times a day, allowing users to view Congressional activity from the present back to the beginning of the 110th Congress. Kinnaird is currently building a new version of Connect 2 Congress that tracks the current 111th Congress. The new version shows how votes are being conducted in the U.S. Senate as early as the next morning and tracks how verbose the senators are. Kinnaird hopes to release the House version in the next few months.

Connect 2 Congress pulls its data from GovTrack.us (http://govtrack.us), not the Library of Congress, because GovTrack is considered reliable by government watchdog groups and it provides the date in a format that's easier to use.

To see Connect 2 Congress in action, visit http://www.connect2congress.com


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Georgia Institute of Technology. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Georgia Institute of Technology. "Connect 2 Congress lets Americans track their senators, one vote at a time." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 12 April 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/04/100412100021.htm>.
Georgia Institute of Technology. (2010, April 12). Connect 2 Congress lets Americans track their senators, one vote at a time. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 31, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/04/100412100021.htm
Georgia Institute of Technology. "Connect 2 Congress lets Americans track their senators, one vote at a time." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/04/100412100021.htm (accessed August 31, 2014).

Share This




More Science & Society News

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

California Passes 'yes-Means-Yes' Campus Sexual Assault Bill

California Passes 'yes-Means-Yes' Campus Sexual Assault Bill

Reuters - US Online Video (Aug. 30, 2014) California lawmakers pass a bill requiring universities to adopt "affirmative consent" language in their definitions of consensual sex, part of a nationwide drive to curb sexual assault on campuses. Linda So reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
As Drought Continues LA "water Police" Fight Waste

As Drought Continues LA "water Police" Fight Waste

AFP (Aug. 29, 2014) In the midst of a historic drought, Los Angeles is increasing efforts to go after people who waste water. Five water conservation "cops" drive around the city every day educating homeowners about the drought. Duration: 02:17 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Who Could Be Burnt by WHO's E-Cigs Move?

Who Could Be Burnt by WHO's E-Cigs Move?

Reuters - Business Video Online (Aug. 28, 2014) The World Health Organisation has called for the regulation of electronic cigarettes as both tobacco and medical products. Ciara Lee looks at the impact of the move on the tobacco industry. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
JPMorgan Chase Confirms Possible Cyber Attack

JPMorgan Chase Confirms Possible Cyber Attack

Reuters - US Online Video (Aug. 28, 2014) Attackers stole checking and savings account information and lots of other data from JPMorgan Chase, according to the New York Times. Other banks are believed to be victims as well. Fred Katayama reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins