Reading Time: 4 minutes
Yesterday, I posted Part 1, which explored the election results, records and stats sections of the new Capitol & Washington. Today I’m focusing on the part of the site I’m most excited about: Visual representations of data.
A huge emphasis in the site’s rebuild was better displaying data graphically. To that end, I’ve added a new section of visualizations, which is really just a fancy way to say “charts and graphs.” What good is all the data I’ve collected if it is just dumped into tables? Displaying it in charts and graphs doesn’t just make it easier to understand, it also helps highlight things that might otherwise be missed.
I plan to build over several of these moving forward, both as I need them for posts and when I get good ideas. To kick it off, I’ve created two different types of visualizations. Best of all? They are interactive.
Party Control of State Government Chart
This is a color-coded timeline chart that quickly shows you which party controlled the Governor’s office, Lt. Governor’s office (relevant prior to the 1970’s, when it was separately elected from Governor), the State Senate, and the State House of Representatives (both have darker shades of red and blue to denote supermajority status). This charts spans the entirety of state history, starting in 1816 and going up to the present day (automatically updated when changes are made to the database).
You’ll notice on the image above that there are two versions of the chart. That’s because the smaller one on bottom remains fixed so that you can highlight a timespan (just click and drag your mouse) to zoom the big chart in on. Additionally, when you hover your mouse over any block of color on the big chart, it will tell you the name and party of a Governor or Lt. Governor, or the party breakdown of a legislative chamber.
Laid out visually in this way, it becomes very easy to quickly see where there might be one party control, or to quickly count the number of times each party has enjoyed a supermajority status in either or both chambers.
Average Legislative Tenure Graph
Yesterday, I pointed out that the Length of Tenure Records page calculates the average service time for every member on a filtered list. I used that function to calculate the average service time for our U.S. Senate, U.S. House, State Senate, and State House legislative bodies at the end of every year from 1816 until today. This chart (which will be automatically updated every time there is a legislative change in the database) plots those out on a line graph.
While you can use the colored buttons at the top of the graph to turn the various lines on/off, the image you see above shows the average service time for the State Senate and State House. I’ve done a lot of research on this over the past year or so, and this helps illustrate graphically a few points I’d long suspected:
- Prior to Constitutional reforms, the average length of service stayed pretty consistent at around 1 term or so (2 years in the House and 4 in the Senate).
- But after those reforms, it shot up dramatically, so that the they are both around 10 years today (a whopping 400% increase in the House).
- Under our 1851 Constitution, the legislature met for about two months every other year. Because it was only a two-month commitment, members tended to do the job, and then go back to private life and let someone else serve. You see that constant turnover (around 80% each session) in the jaggedness of that line between 1851 and 1970–but notice that it is a consistent volatility that hovers around 1 term!
In addition to turning lines on/off, this graph is interactive in another way: If you click and drag your mouse on it, you can zoom in to the time period you’ve selected. You can keep zooming to any one year period. You can reset it back to the original graph by double-clicking your mouse.
The old version of the site did have a maps platform that allowed you to view any Congressional district map back to 1816, and the current state legislative maps. That platform was built on top of Google maps, but for a variety of technical reasons (both current issues and ideas for expanding the use of maps in the future), I built my own new platform from scratch.
And while I do look forward to expanding this in the future, for now you can only view district maps. The Congressional maps still exist back to 1816, and the state legislative maps now go back to 2002. I plan to continue to add the state legislative maps in the near future.
Using the drop-down menu seen at the top of the image, you can select any Congressional or General Assembly session to see a color-coded map that shows you what the districts looked like. Next the menu is a checkbox that allows you to turn county lines on/off (in the image, they are on).
Additionally, if you hover your mouse over a district, it becomes a darker shade, and the relevant row in the table highlights so that you can quickly see who represented that district in the chosen year. This function also works vice versa, so that hovering over a name on the table will also turn the district a darker shade. By clicking on a district, you will disable the hover mechanism and leave the district and name highlighted. Click anywhere will resume hovering.