Developer Documentation

Want to build an app? Part of GovTrack’s core mission is to make legislative data freely available so that others can build new tools to promote civic education and engagement.

GovTrack applies the principles of open data to legislative transparency. We screen scrape a variety of official government websites each day and make the resulting normalized database of legislative information available for free for reuse — in bulk (since 2005) and with an API (since 2012). Our database is the foundation for dozens of other open government websites.

How do I get the data?

Bulk Data. Our bulk data contains the raw data behind most everything you see on GovTrack in XML or JSON format (and sometimes both). You can download the bulk data using rsync, a common Unix data transfer utility. We began making our bulk data available in 2005.

API. The API is appropriate for use in applications that need only small slices of our data at a time. If you intend to query data in bulk, use our bulk data instead. Our first API went online in May 2012. It is currently in version 2.

GIS API and Maps. THIS SERVICE IS DEPRECATED and will be discontinued on January 4, 2017. We host a map server and API for United States Congressional Districts, 113th Congress (i.e. 2012 elections and on), based on the geographic data made available by the U.S. Census.

What about source code?

Our github repository at github:govtrack/govtrack.us-web contains the source code for the Django front-end that you see at govtrack.us. Pull requests are welcome! Our front-end source code is not openly licensed right now, but if you want to stand it up for a different government/jurisdiction drop us a a line.

github:unitedstates/congress-legislators. This repository maintains a comprehensive database of all Members of Congress since 1789. The github account contains YAML files which you can load into your application. You can also find the files in our bulk data, including in CSV format.

github:unitedstates/congress. This is an open source community project to compile a comprehensive database of U.S. federal legislation. It is based in part on the source code we developed in the early 2000’s to scrape THOMAS, and now we maintain the new code with others as part of a group effort. The project provides bulk data downloads, or you can run the Python scripts yourself on your own schedule, and we make the data available through our bulk data.