OCDEP 7: Votes

Author:James Turk


Definition of the Open Civic Data vote types.

(Based in part on Popolo types for the Open Civic Data Vote and VoteEvent).


Determining how legislators have voted on specific proposals is a vital component to creating legislative accountability. The VoteEvent type and its related subtypes exist to enable the recording of votes (meaning the outcome of a proposal as well as the individual positions of legislators).

An attempt has been made to reconcile our vote types (originally based in Open States work) with the schemas put forward by the Popolo specification.


Because at the time of writing (June 2014) the Popolo vote specification was still somewhat in a state of flux we’ve included pieces of the specification here for consistency.


Because the term ‘vote’ can mean multiple things, Popolo makes use of the term VoteEvent to describe the actual event of a legislative vote taking place and the term Vote for a legislator’s vote in a given VoteEvent. We generally use that terminology here, with the exception that the recommended API endpoint and ID scheme for VoteEvent objects will use vote and ocd-vote/{{uuid}} for VoteEvent.

Each VoteEvent has the following fields:

Open Civic Data-style id, in the format ocd-vote/{{uuid}}.
optional Upstream identifier if one exists, such as ‘Roll Call #2372’.

The motion being voted upon. Represented as an object with text and classification elements.

text is a required string describing the motion.

classification is a list of classifiers (e.g. ‘bill-passage’) and can also be an empty list.

In Popolo there is a Motion class that has additional properties, only text and classification are supported at this time.

Time at which the vote begins. In flexible YYYY-MM-DD format.
optional Time at which the vote ends, should such a time exist. In flexible YYYY-MM-DD format.
The outcome of the vote, can be ‘pass’ or ‘fail’.
organization, organization_id
The Organization in which the VoteEvent took place.
legislative_session, legislative_session_id
Reference to the Jurisdiction.legislative_session the VoteEvent takes place in.
bill, bill_id
optional Reference to the Bill object the VoteEvent is related to (if the vote in question is on a bill).

A list of objects representing individual legislator’s votes. (Popolo refers to these as Vote).

This list may not be present if the individual voters are not known, for example in the case of a voice vote.

Each element has the following properties:

The name of the voter as it appears on the primary source. (Useful for when it cannot yet be resolved to a specific individual.)
voter, voter_id
A reference to the Person responsible for the vote. (may be null if the voter_name has not been resolved to an individual.)
The opinion of the voter casting this Vote. See Voting Options.
A freeform text field describing any additional information about the vote. An example might be an excuse if the option is ‘excused’.

A list of count objects (what Popolo calls Count).

These represent the total number of individuals voting a particular way. Each has two properties:

The voting option being tallied. See Voting Options.
The total number of individuals voting this way. (Should match the sum of the votes with the same option in almost every case, assuming they are present.)
Time that this object was created at in the system, not to be confused with the start_date.
Time that this object was last updated in the system.

List of sources used in assembling this object. Has the following properties:

URL of the resource.
optional Description of what this source was used for.
Common to all Open Civic Data types, the value is a key-value store suitable for storing arbitrary information not covered elsewhere.

Voting Options

The possible values of counts.option and votes.option are as follows:

  • yes
  • no
  • abstain
  • absent
  • not voting
  • paired

Additional values will be added in the future as needed.

Differences from Popolo

  • VoteEvent has an extra attribute which is not defined in Popolo.
  • Vote objects (within VoteEvent.votes) have a voter_name property that is used for when a voter cannot be linked to a known Person. Additionally, voter can only link to a Person.
  • Vote objects also do not currently support the group, role, weight, or pair properties. There is a chance these will be adopted in the future after their use is necessary.
  • Vote objects have a note property that is not present in Popolo’s specification.
  • Motion objects from Popolo are represented simply as motion.text, this is future-proof should we ever choose to adopt additional Motion properties.
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