Despite Some Stars, Congressional Websites Generally ‘Still Weak,’ Report Says
Posted at 5 p.m. on April 29, 2014
Hannah Hess at Roll Call’s Hill Blotter blog highlights Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., and Sen. Mark S. Kirk, R-Ill., as some of the individual members who received Gold Mouse Awards for the 113th Congress from the Congressional Management Foundation for exemplary websites or social media activity.
The foundation doesn’t just hand out awards, it also reports on best practices for Congress’ online communications. The report describes individual lawmakers’ websites as “still weak,” but says they’ve improved, with an “increasing number providing basic legislative and casework information and links.”
For example, it found that 79 percent of these websites provide the lawmaker’s voting record, up from 56 percent in 2011. And while in 2011, only 41 percent of websites provided information on how to understand these voting records, 87 percent of them had this information available in 2013, the report says.
The report also mentions the role of website templates: “In some cases, Member websites have shown dramatic improvement over previous years,” the report notes. “CMF believes this improvement is largely attributable to the website templates available to House and Senate offices, which include much of this information as standard content.”
One area that has seen decline is informing users on how to ask for help with federal agency issues. While 62 percent of them provided this information in 2011, only 41 percent did in 2013, according to the report. The report attributes this in part to the fact that this information needs more “customized context and information” but argues that it’s not hard for the offices to provide this information and that it wouldn’t have to be updated.
It also noted that the number of awards given to committee websites was the lowest compared to previous years.
Committee websites needed to list all the bills assigned to the panel or post transcripts of hearings within one month. Only 15 of 43 committee websites that were evaluated for the 113th Congress, got past the first round. The report gave the caveat that if the committee wasn’t a legislative panel or didn’t conduct hearings, they automatically moved forward.