RepresentMe (Repme.org) focuses on how well your representatives and senators represent you. It takes your opinions on bills and issues and compares them to how your elected officials voted. It applies statistics, accounting for how strongly you feel about specific issues and bills. The end result is a detailed breakdown of how well you are being represented.
Repme.org is meant to compliment OpenCongress.org, a sunlight foundation sponsored project. OpenCongress.org is a great site for learning about legislation passing through congress. It gives you a very detailed view of everything happening in congress. What it doesn’t have is a detailed rating system for elected officials.
Your House Represenative and Senators are the only three people in congress you get to vote for. Getting information on what these three people are doing should be quick, easy, and detailed. For this reason I’ve focused on things directly relevant to the user and their representation. My hope is to affect people opinions, positively and negatively. To expose how well people are represented and on what issues. Voters will then know what to applaud them for, and which areas need improvement.
RepresentMe uses a user driven weighting system to factor in personal preferences and the subtleties of politics. Some issues are more important to one person, than another. Sometimes people feel more strongly for or against a bill. RepresentMe does it’s best to capture this providing a more accurate view of user preferences.
RepresentMe collects user votes on a scale from -100% to +100% and compares that to the lawmaker vote which can only be Aye (+100%) or Nay (-100%). Presents, and No Votes are also treated as Nays, because these are just a political move that results in the same thing. The two votes are compared to create a match percentage.
Lawmakers only get to vote in absolutes, but RepresentMe users get to vote the intensity of their support or opossal. This is where the user element comes into play. A RepresentMe user can vote things like “I wanted TARP to pass, but I couldn’t fully support it”.
Users can select the issues most important to them and rate their relative importance. These ratings are used to group and weight the results. This allows users to adjust issues to have a bigger or smaller impact on the overall rating.
Personal ratings for each user and their lawmakers are calculated. The ratings are a weighted average derived from their vote matches and issues. Aggregate ratings for lawmakers are also provided. All ratings include a details of where the numbers came from.
My hope is that RepresentMe will produce a set of useful data. I don’t want the data to just remain on repme.org, I want it to be used wherever possible. Sharing the data can bring about conversation and ultimately change. To that end I’ve provided several ways to share data from RepresentMe.
Facebook has 175 million active users around the world, Its one of the most popular social media websites in the U.S. The RepresentMe Facebook Application allows you to share data from RepresentMe by automatically publishing your votes to your Facebook Status, and allows you to add your lawmaker ratings to your profile page.
Learn more about the application here
A widget is a portable chunk of code that can be installed and executed within any separate HTML-based web page. By providing widgets, owners of other websites can display a small portion of your website, in theirs. RepresentMe provides an initial set of six widgets and a Generic Widget Builder to make it simpler to add new widgets
View the widgets here
An XML feed is provided for every lawmaker. This can be used by developers who want tighter integration within their own applications.
View an example feed here
The road doesn’t end here. There are future plans to improve the calculations RepresentMe can produce. The ratings system is a fairly simple one as far as statistics go. I feel fairly confident with user’s personal ratings but aggregate ratings need more studying. A single user casting votes inherently weights itself correctly. Different users won’t weight their votes the same way and that needs to be accounted for. More data is needed to determine how to properly adjust the aggregate lawmaker ratings to account for different user voting patterns.