Transparency & Participation in Government
Democracy doesn’t stop at the ballot box. It requires citizen oversight and participation. As a citizen, you have the right to supervise the work of your representative and the government. Here are a few ways to participate in the process.
Learn About the Process
There are many helpful external resources on how government functions so that you can learn more about the different branches of government.
- The US Government website usa.gov provides detailed information on the three branches of the US government here and how laws are made here.
- The Virginia State government has a hub of similar resources here on the functions of the state government.
- You can also learn more about the legislative process in Virginia through the General Assembly official page here.
Track a Bill or an Issue
Have a particular issue that you care about? Government bodies and non-profits maintain legislative tracking systems so that you can find out the status and more information on topics of interest.
- You can search for specific bills on the US Congress website or the Virginia General Assembly’s Legislative Information System website.
- Govtrack is a great external resource to find your representative, track a bill, voting record, and report cards of congress members.
- Richmond Sunlight is a free, independent website that pulls legislative information for the Virginia General Assembly to follow bills in the General Assembly.
Track Your Representative
You can also track the voting and campaign finance records of your representatives.
- The Virginia Public Access Project (VPAP) is a free, non-profit website that aggregates Virginia legislative, campaign finance, news, and other political data into a user-friendly searchable database.
- Votesmart is another resource that allows you to track the positions, ratings and endorsements of politicians on specific issues.
- Open Secrets contains information on the campaign finance information of politicians, candidates and campaigns, as well as information on lobbying and interest groups.
Track Government Budget and Regulation
The administrative functions of government are what citizens experience everyday, yet often receives less attention than the attention-grabbing headlines generated by elected officials.
- The Commonwealth of Virginia provides a transparency hub here. You can access status and details on state regulation, budget, and other government performance data.
Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)
The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) empowers citizens to obtain public records and request information from government bodies.
- The Virginian Coalition for Open Government provides a Citizen’s FOIA Guide with detailed guidelines on how to request information under the law.