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Your One-Stop Shop for Visualizing the Legislative Process Your One-Stop Shop for Visualizing the Legislative Process

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Your One-Stop Shop for Visualizing the Legislative Process

Prepare to be overwhelmed.


The state of lawmaking at press time.(Screenshot/Legislative Explorer)

In 1975, an animated, talking scroll taught kids how a bill becomes a law.

These days, teaching methods are a little bit more advanced. Take this free, new stunning visualization tool from researchers at the University of Washington's Center for American Politics and Public Policy, which uses big data to show decades of the lawmaking process in action.


The tool, called Legislative Explorer, allows users to track the legislative movements of more than 250,000 congressional bills and resolutions introduced from 1973 to the present.

"Anyone can use Legislative Explorer to observe large scale patterns and trends in congressional lawmaking without advanced methodological training," the website explains. "In addition, anyone can dive deeper into the data to further explore a pattern they've detected, to learn about the activities of an individual lawmaker, or to follow the progress of a specific bill."

And, boy, is there a lot of data. Users can sift through it with a variety of filters: a specific Congress, senator, or representative, political party, topic, committee, sponsor, and more. You can also search for a bill by name and see where it died—or when it reached the president's desk. Once you've picked a filter, hit the "play" button at the top left of the page and watch the magic happen (or not).


Each particle represents a bill or resolution, and their colors correspond to the party and chamber of the legislation, or to its sponsor. Red indicates Republican, blue Democrat, and yellow independent. Mouse over a dot to see more information about the bill. Hover over the people-shaped markers on the left- and right-hand sides to see names of Congress members, their ideology score, and their state. A handy tracker at the bottom of the page tallies the number of total bills for a Congress at a given point in time.

Long story short: You may want to watch this video tutorial before diving in.

At the time of this writing, 6,338 bills or resolutions have been introduced during the 113th Congress—2,151 in the Senate and 4,187 in the House. Eighty-four of them, or about 1 percent, have become law.

h/t Nathan Yau


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