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Open States' Legislative Data Report Card

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Open States, a project of the Sunlight Foundation, released its report card of the most and least transparent state legislatures in the United States entitled the Open Legislative Data Report Card, in which each state’s legislative data is evaluated for how adequate, complete, and accessible the data is to the general public.
This map details each state's transparency grade.

2013 Report

The 2013 Open Legislative Data Report Card was a report presented by Open States on the adequacy, availability, and accessibility of each state’s legislative data relative to other states. The report was based on Open Secrets’ six criteria of evaluation, based on its own Ten Principles for Opening Up Government Information: “completeness, timeliness, ease of access, machine readability, use of commonly owned standards and permanence.” States received scores based on these six criteria and were also assigned a letter grade by multiple participants in the study.[1]

Open States gave its lowest rating (an "F" grade) to Massachusetts, based on the state's inaccessibility, the state website’s consistent breakdowns, a lack of vote data, and deficiency in historical information before the year 2009. Other states to receive the lowest rating included Nebraska, Kentucky, and Alabama. By contrast, the report granted its highest rating (an "A" grade) to 10 states, including Arkansas, Connecticut, Georgia, Kansas, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Texas, Virginia and Washington.

Top 10 Most Open State Legislatures

Top 10 Most Transparent States
State Completeness Timeliness Ease of Access Machine Readibility Standards Permanence Grade
Arkansas 0 1 0 1 0 2 A
Connecticut 0 1 0 1 0 2 A
Georgia 0 0 0 2 0 2 A
Kansas 0 0 1 1 1 2 A
New Hampshire 0 0 0 2 0 2 A
New York 0 1 0 1 0 2 A
North Carolina 0 1 0 1 0 2 A
Texas -1 1 1 2 0 2 A
Virginia 0 1 0 1 0 2 A
Washington 0 1 0 2 0 2 A

Top 10 Least Open State Legislatures

Top 10 Most Transparent States
State Completeness Timeliness Ease of Access Machine Readibility Standards Permanence Grade
Alabama 0 1 -2 -1 0 -1 F
Kentucky 0 0 0 -2 -1 0 F
Massachusetts -1 1 -2 -2 0 -1 F
Nebraska 0 0 0 -1 0 -1 F
California 0 0 -1 1 0 0 D
Indiana -1 1 0 -1 0 0 D
Rhode Island 0 1 0 0 0 -1 D
Louisiana 0 1 -1 -1 0 0 D
Maine 0 1 -1 0 0 0 D
Oklahoma 0 1 -1 0 0 0 D

Complete rankings


Open States evaluated each state within six criteria, with at least two staff members and a volunteer assigning scores to each state. To guarantee reliable information for the study, state legislatures were consulted. The six criteria used for the study included completeness, timeliness, ease of access, machine readability, use of commonly owned standards and permanence. For each criterion, states were given a score on a negative to positive scale (for example, -2 to 2). Negative ratings highlighted, for example, the state’s untimely posting of legislative information or difficulty in accessing information. A zero or positive rating, for example, corresponded to a state’s well-designed layout, timeliness of website updates, or completeness of legislative information (bills, committees, etc.).[2]

A in-depth look at each criterion is below:

  • Completeness: The completeness of a state's legislative information was evaluated on whether the state provided information on bills, legislators, committees, votes and events. If a state also provided a greater amount of relevant resources, such as supporting documents, legislative journals, and schedules, researchers of the report took note of it. Deduction in points resulted from a lack of information.
  • Timeliness: States were rewarded for the timely posting of information, especially if such postings were made in real time. Untimely updates of 24 hours or more resulted in a deduction of points for that state.
  • Ease of access: States with easy navigation, ease in bookmarking, and stability in their websites received higher marks in this category. If difficulties involved with JavaScript or Flash occurred, states were given lower marks.
  • Machine readability: Files on state websites that were presented in "machine-readable format" like XML, JSON, CSV, or in bulk downloads received greater scores than other states. States with the absolute lowest scores presented their information in either PDF image files or scanned documents.
  • Use of commonly owned standards: States received good scores if they presented their bills in either HTML or PDF format, while states making their bills available in Microsoft Word or Wordperfect required researchers to do greater work in getting the bills in a readable format.
  • Permanence: When states preserved their information amidst changes in their website received good scores in this area (for example, when original sources are readily available on the newly updated site). The report concluded that most, but not all, states were consistent in this category.

External links