By BOLTON LANCASTER
In the midst of the 2012 Congressional elections, many potential voters are looking to find out more about the politicians that represent them. Political stories are popular in the news as incumbents attempt to defend their seats and challengers try to make a name for themselves. The website GovTrack.us is a valuable online resource for potential voters and journalists alike.
According to the “About” section of the website, GovTrack.us hopes to “promote and innovate government transparency, civic engagement, and civic education through novel uses of technology.” The website was launched in 2004 and is currently maintained by Civic Impulse, LLC.
The four main links on the homepage of the site are members of Congress, bills and resolutions, voting records, and committees. Under the members of Congress section, visitors can search for politicians based on last name or the visitor’s address, allowing voters to see the people that represent their district. It also has an extensive amount of information about each politician.
For example, if visitors type “Reid” into the search box, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is the first result that comes up. By clicking on his name, people can see basic information such as his political affiliation and how long he has been in office. Perhaps one of the most interesting resources that GovTrack.us provides is a chart that includes every member of Congress based on his or her ideology and leadership. Reid, for example, is rated as a moderate Democratic leader in the Senate. Each politician’s profile also shows committee memberships, bills sponsored, and voting record.
In the bills and resolutions section of the site, visitors can look at Congress’ current docket, view bills and resolutions by subject, search and track different bills, and view statistics. In the statistics area, there is a table that shows the enacted laws, passed resolutions, vetoed bills, and other similar statistics for each session of Congress.
The voting records sections shows which politicians voted for different bills and resolutions. For example, by clicking on the “Stop the War on Coal Act of 2012” link, viewers are taken to a page with statistical breakdowns that showed how members of each party voted. It also shows the individual votes of every single person in Congress.
The Congressional committees section lists all the Senate committees, House committees, and joint committees in Congress. Every committee has a link that visitors can explore, bringing them to a page that shows all of the members of the committee as well as their positions. There is also information on how many people from each party make up the committees.