New WRAL.com feature brings lawmaker details into focus
Posted May 25, 2016 10:18 a.m. EDT
Updated May 25, 2016 10:49 a.m. EDT
Raleigh, N.C. — Whether they're convened on Jones Street or not, the 170 members of the North Carolina General Assembly generate a lot of data.
Votes, campaign contributions, annual conflict of interest disclosures – all information designed to help voters track and assess the job they elected their representatives to do.
But on the @NCCapitol team, we felt this lawmaker-related data would be most useful when it's available alongside the coverage you see every day on WRAL.com.
Starting Wednesday, we're rolling out a new feature that allows you find out more about the state lawmakers you're reading about with a click of the mouse.
When we mention a sitting state lawmaker in a story on @NCCapitol – say Democratic Rep. Larry Hall or Republican Senate leader Phil Berger – you can still hover overtap on the name to get the same snapshot of each lawmaker's top donors, a feature called Donor Reveal we launched last year. But now, users can click on the nametap on "View full profile" to get a detailed rundown of each lawmaker's stats, including a searchable database of donors, a current conflict-of-interest disclosure and an up-to-date calculation of how often he or she misses votes or votes with his or her party.
The feature also tracks the sponsors and votes on the most newsworthy bills the @NCCapitol team is watching this session, such as budgets, tax changes and efforts to reform environmental regulations.
In addition to finding the profiles linked on story pages, you can find out more about your own legislators through our Find Your Lawmakers application.
All of the voting data, updated every evening, is provided by the legislative tracking service Legiscan. Campaign contributions are provided by the National Institute for Money in State Politics, which regularly parses and cleans donation data from each state's board of elections.
Under the hood, the legislative profiles are powered by a system we've built called Venus, which siphons up bill and rollcall vote information, calculates key statistics and stores everything in a database that allows our reporters to prioritize the most notable bills (the code, by the way, is available on GitHub).
Our profiles are still in beta, meaning there are still plenty of rough edges. But we're launching now so users can begin to weigh in on what they'd like to see added to the information that's already on the page. If you can think of more data that would be helpful in revealing how the legislature and its members operate – or you want to report something that's just not working – contact me.
We're by no means done here. But with our audience's help, we're hoping to build a truly valuable service that provides more options to understand the ins and outs of Tar Heel State politics – whether it's through a quick dip in the data or a much deeper dive.