By Mark Wolf
Arizona Senator Bob Worsley went from enticing people to engage with the SkyMall catalog in their airplane seat pocket to getting them to engage in Arizona civic matters.
Ryan Blair oversaw the redesign of the New York Senate website and was honored with NCSL’s 2016 Online Democracy Award for having a superior legislative website.
Both men shared their ideas and successes with a Legislative Summit session on “Building Trust With Citizens.”
Worsley, who launched SkyMall at 32 and later sold it to Rupert Murdoch before running for the Arizona Senate, spearheaded a fundraising drive to launch Arizona Voices in 2014.
“The vision was to make everything we’re doing in the legislature available to anyone and let them vote (on a sliding approve/disapprove scale),” said Worsley. Users can also submit ideas for proposed legislation.
The site, which was built outside the legislative process, cost about $300,000 to launch and typically $10,000 to $20,000 each year for hosting and enhancements.
Blair, digital director of the New York Senate, said the Senate’s old site was “about broadcasting the message of a body in full to people around the state. The new version is both broadcasting and listening. That’s the key difference.”
The New York site was redesigned over 17 months beginning in May 2014 and went live in October 2015. The process cost roughly $500,000.
NCSL’s 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.
The Online Democracy Award is sponsored by two of NCSL's legislative staff organizations: the National Association of Legislative Information Technology (NALIT) and the Legislative Information and Communications Staff (LINCS).
Mark Wolf is editor of the NCSL Blog.