If you are a political, social impact, or non-profit organization, chances are you need a legislative scorecard.
A legislative scorecard tracks how elected representatives vote on specific bills and issues. These representatives are scored based on proprietary metrics and unique factors specific to the organization. If your organization advocates for specific causes, a legislative scorecard can be a great tool to encourage grassroots activism, promote accountability, increase awareness, and impact strategic direction.
Many organizations produce political scorecards in a static format (e.g. PDFs), and include them as part of activism campaigns, annual reports, or in election cycles.
Over the last several years we have seen a shift from static political scorecards to web-based interactive applications. The benefits of web-based legislative scorecards over static scorecards are numerous. Web-based legislative scorecards can be accessed from any browser or mobile device, it's much easier to drive activist and marketing traffic to digital pages, and perhaps most importantly, web-based political scorecards feature dynamic content that can be managed and updated in near real-time.
Components of a legislative scorecard
There are three parts of a legislative scorecard:
- Front-End User Interface
- Back-End Content Management
- Scoring Metrics
Frontend user interface
This is the user-facing "design" of the political scorecard. The front-end user interface (UI) ingests data from the back-end system and/or any connected API's, and displays score data, vote and bill data, and information about elected representatives. The best legislative scorecards are designed responsively to allow for optimal interaction regardless of the user's device.
Some organizations choose to build their legislative scorecard separate from the main website, but we've found that legislative scorecards perform and convert better when the scorecard is integrated into the main website. The political scorecard must be engineered on the same platform as the website, and usually requires professional web development to ensure that everything works seamlessly. Consideration should also be given to the visual design of the legislative scorecard, paying attention to brand consistency, readability, and user conversion.
Backend content management
The backend of a political scorecard houses the data with which users interact. This includes vote and bill data, elected representative information, and any ancillary or related content the organization might wish to include. The primary consideration here (and perhaps the most important consideration of all) is how vote data and elected representative information is ingested into the legislative scorecard. The last thing you want is to manage and edit all of the data manually, which usually happens with a static or poorly designed tool.
The best method for managing and displaying data is to connect with an existing API from organizations that track vote and representative information. We should note that there are several resources for federal data, but state data can be difficult to access. If your organization operates at a state level, or if you want to build a state-specific political scorecard, you will need to explore what information is accessible in your state.
For federal vote data, we recommend using Pro Publica's API, or utilizing a 3rd party platform like Quorum. For congressional member information, we typically utilize Congress's official API. We have experienced some holes in the data, so you'll want to monitor any discrepancies or data anomalies, and make sure you have the means to update information where necessary.
Finally, you'll need to develop your own scoring rubric for your legislative scorecard. We've seen a variety of methods used to calculate scores from super simple to very complex algorithms. If you are using a numerical score, you’ll need an understanding of how the score is calculated so that it can be integrated into the web application.
Depending on the causes you advocate, and depending on other factors like the number of votes related to your cause, you also might consider a binary scoring metric. This could be something like "supports" vs "doesn't support," or even a "thumbs up" vs "thumbs down." Often, it comes down to how complex your rubric is, and how much hands-on management you and your team will need.
Legislative scorecard examples
Heritage Action for America is a Zaengle client, and we've had the privilege of building and managing their legislative scorecard for several years. Heritage Action's legislative scorecard features an intuitive user interface design that is directly integrated into the organization's main website, and utilizes Quorum and Pro Publica's API for vote and representative data. Additionally, we made it a point to prioritize the "Take Action" conversion funnel inside of the scorecard to encourage users to act. Read Zaengle's full case study.
The Humane Society's political scorecard is one of our favorite examples. It is a beautiful application that breaks scores down by state, and also integrates the Humane Society's position on major issues. Like Heritage Action's political scorecard, the Humane Society does a good job of integrating "Take Action" into the scorecard flow to optimize conversion and activism.
The US Chamber of Commerce states that their legislative scorecard measures votes for or against business priorities. The legislative scorecard features a simple, intuitive design that presents the content in a consumable manner. The scorecard also presents delightful features like multiple scores and quick facts.
The Club for Growth political scorecard is a good example of a binary scoring system. They break their scorecard into "House" and "Senate" sections, and provide both a numerical score for members along with a yes/no breakdown for each vote.
The AFLCIO legislative scorecard is another good example of an integrated application measuring both the House and Senate. The scorecard shows current and lifetime scores, and provides a breakdown of votes related to the issues AFLCIO supports.
The Human Rights Campaign political scorecard is a great example of a non-interactive static tool. Though presented as PDFs, the scorecard still showcases the organization's causes, and does a good job of visually representing quite a lot of data. The Human Rights Campaign would be well served to convert their legislative scorecard from a static format into a web-based interactive application.
As we enter into a new election cycle, and as events continue to unfold, there is no better time to incorporate a legislative scorecard into your organization's strategic direction. One of the best ways to advance your cause, convert new donors, and encourage real change is to shine a light on elected representatives. Legislative scorecards can be a relatively low cost, low risk tool that can exponentially impact your organization's reach.
If you would like to learn more about how a legislative scorecard could make a difference in your organization, please reach out to Zaengle.
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By Jason VanLue