Senate Rules Committee OKs Vote Publishing Via XML

    May 6, 2009
    WebProNews Staff

The Senate Rules Committee decided today to make US Senator roll-call votes available in XML format. The change is part of a growing effort to make government more transparent.

After much petition and long after the House of Representatives had done so, a feed showing all votes from individual Senators is now available. Previously, only how the Senate voted as a group was easily accessible, and only through unanimous agreement could one easily decipher how his or her representative voted.

Jim DeMint
Jim DeMint

“I want to thank Senators Schumer and Bennett for helping us increase Senate transparency and accountability,” said Sen. Jim DeMint (R-South Carolina).  Last week, a group of Senators on both sides of the aisle sent them a letter asking them to publish Senate votes in the XML format so the public can use computers to search, sort, and visualize voting records in new ways.

“This simple but important change will help give Americans real transparency on their Senator’s voting record.”

Many of government records are stored on databases not accessible to the public. Often, if the information is available, it’s only available in less user friendly formats. XML is a standard that makes it easy to publish and mash up data.

Making Senate votes available in XML was included on a list created by participants in a survey conducted at Show Us the Data, which created a list of the top eight types of government information people wanted more access to. They include:

1.    Congressional committee votes
2.    Earmarks
3.    Foreign Travel Reports
4.    Legal Defense Funds
5.    Senate Votes in XML
6.    Senior Executive Service
7.    High Level Diplomatic Visits
8.    The CIA World Factbook 

Though much of the above information is currently available, often it is located in hard to reach places, like cumbersome, difficult to search and manage PDF files on obscure government websites.