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OpenCongress and the Fifty States

February 27, 2009 - by Donny Shaw

A few months after the initial launch of OpenCongress, a crafty web developed, totally independent of PPF and Sunlight, made use our open source code to build a parallel site for the Massachusetts State Legislature. OpenMass, which was built by James Caralis, gave us hope that more sites like that would start popping up to help bring transparency to state governments across the country. But alas, none have been created since then, and a big reason is that, in most states, it’s just too difficult to get legislative data in accessible, machine processable formats from the legislatures.

Today, Sunlight Labs is launching the Fifty State Project, a crowd-sourcing initiative to create accessible databases of legislative information in every state. From the Sunlight Labs blog:

While no single developer has the time to volunteer writing a custom scraper for each state, the goal of having data for all fifty states is entirely attainable if we come together and share the workload. This is where you come in. We need your help databasing state legislation. To coordinate, we’ve set up project pages on the Sunlight Labs Wiki and github to share scraping utilities, data, and ideas. We also will be promoting the Fifty State Project at a series of “hackathons” that we’re hosting at various events around the country. The hope is that soon, we’ll have a standardized database and APIs to work from, putting the goal of “an Open Congress for all fifty states” within reach.
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