The New York State Senate last week was recognized for having the best legislative website in the country by the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) and received the 2016 Online Democracy Award . The interactive NYSenate.gov was unveiled last year as part of the Senate’s ongoing effort to empower New Yorkers to more easily participate in their state government. The award was presented during the NCSL’s 2016 Legislative Summit in Chicago, which was held August 8-11.
Senate Majority Leader John J. Flanagan said, “We re-launched a more modern and interactive Senate website last year so legislators could listen and respond to their constituents in a number of new ways, and do their jobs even more effectively. This groundbreaking tool for democracy has succeeded in getting New Yorkers more involved and more invested in all aspects of their state government. I am proud of the work we are doing in the Senate, and I’m glad we’re leading the way and setting a high standard for other legislatures to follow.”
Senate Coalition Co-Leader Jeff Klein said, “The Senate brought democracy to the people millennium-style. Our best-in-the-nation website increases transparency, and allows New Yorkers to participate in government from their home computers or even from their smart phones. It’s helped legislators better understand what their constituents want, and helped constituents understand the way the legislative process works. I’m proud that the New York State Senate won the 2016 Online Democracy Award, once again showing that New York always leads the way in the nation.
The LINCS/NALIT Online Democracy Award is given each year to a legislature, legislative chamber, or caucus whose website helps make democracy user-friendly. It is selected by a national committee of legislative staff who evaluate each nominated site’s design, content, and technological integration.
When the Senate launched its website redesign last October, the interactive layout was the first of its kind in any legislature in the entire country. The format and design of the Senate’s site conforms to all mobile devices and provides users with fresh, interactive ways to make their voices heard and spark meaningful two-way dialogue between legislators and the constituents they represent.
Key features of the website allow users to track the status of important bills in real-time to receive periodic updates on issues they care about, support or oppose legislation online, sign petitions, and provide immediate input and feedback on all legislative proceedings. User feedback is also compiled into easy-to-digest reports for elected officials to review.
According to the NCSL, “Judges praised the website for how it encourages public interaction. They considered the site’s bill comment feature as a plus, along with features that allow for easy sharing of bills on social media. The judges also applauded its user-friendly design, attractive and easy-to-understand graphics, and prominent calendar highlighting statewide activities.”
During the NCSL Summit, Senate technology staff also gave presentations about the website, and fielded questions from attendees who were interested in potentially adopting the Senate’s program for their own state’s legislatures. A roundup from the “Building Trust With Citizens” session can be found here.