Helping Open States

Open States strives to improve civic engagement at the state level by providing data and tools regarding state legislatures. We aim to serve members of the public, activist groups, journalists, and researchers with better data on what is happening in their state capital, and to provide tools to reduce barriers to participation and increase engagement.

Doing all of this takes a lot of work. Open States provides daily updates from 102 legislative chambers, and information on over 7,000 elected officials. We do so without charging users for use of the website, our bulk data, or basic API access.

That's why we rely on a lot of help from the community, whether it is helping us become aware when a piece of data is out of date, writing code to maintain our scrapers, or helping us pay the bills, every bit of help we get is vital to Open States being what it is today.

If you'd like to help, the sections below will detail various ways to help us out!

Several of the methods below mention using GitHub and some tools you may not be familiar with. That's OK! If you're interested in helping but lost, please reach out to the team and we'll be glad to work with you.

Help Improve Politician Data

All of Open States' politician data is curated in text files with the various attributes of a politican (example), by contributing to these files you can help us add more contact methods or correct mistakes that may occur over time.

Skills: Manual data gathering (searching the internet, filling out a document), and/or light web-scraping.

Potential ideas: Gathering social media accounts for a state, helping us correct an out-of-date legislator record.

Guide: Contributing People Data

Issues: People Data Issues

Write Scrapers

All of Open States' bill & vote data is gathered by automated scrapers that run daily, by contributing to these you can help us ensure we have timely and accurate data about everything happening in the state legislatures.

Skills: Python, Web scraping.

Potential ideas: Gather additional data specific to your state that we're otherwise missing, help correct errors.

Guide: Contributing To Scrapers

Issues: Bill Data Issues

Contribute to the Website

Open States' website and API are Open Source too! If you've worked on websites before you can probably help us improve our offerings!

Skills: Python, Django, JavaScript, React, HTML & CSS

Potential ideas: Help us improve the frontend, add flexibility to the API, or tackle an ambitious new feature.

Guide: Contributing To Scrapers

Issues: Website Issues

Provide Feedback / Promote Open States

Even if you don't have the time or resources to commit to one of the above, you can still help by providing feedback to the Open States team. Even if you just want to say hello, it means a lot to know that people benefit from the work we do, and testimonials from organizations using Open States' data can help us win grants and other support.

Get in touch today if you have feedback or anything to share!