The LINCS/NALIT Online Democracy Award is given each year to a legislature, legislative chamber or caucus whose website helps make democracy user-friendly. The award will be presented to the winning state at the NCSL Base Camp.
The Minnesota legislature's website was recognized for its “humongous” amount of content, which is organized and structured in a very user-friendly manner, according to the selection committee. The site designers did a great job focusing on members, bill search and statutes. “Considering how much information is on it, the website is almost deceptively simple while still being polished—but not overly fancy for fancy’s sake,” the committee said. “It’s really commendable.”
The award is sponsored by NCSL's Legislative Information and Communications Staff Section (LINCS) and National Association of Legislative Information Technology (NALIT).
LINCS is the voice of state legislatures. Its members include communications directors, public information officers, press secretaries, audio technicians, photographers and videographers, civic educators and all those who serve as the external liaisons between the nation's state legislatures and their constituents. LINCS provides legislative communicators with a network of more than 400 professionals from around the country with whom to share ideas, war stories and experiences.
NALIT members are legislative information technology professionals and others interested in IT and computer services. NALIT promotes the exchange of ideas and information on all aspects of legislative information systems. NALIT also serves to foster positive communications between legislative information systems management and staff and the legislators and legislative staff they serve.
Online Democracy Award Criteria
Sites under consideration for the award will be judged based on their design, content and technology. Using an established ranking system based on the judging criteria listed below, the committee shall select one legislative web site from among the nominees to be that year’s award winner.
- Is the design of the site simple enough to be user friendly?
- Does the site and its component parts follow a unifying identity and cohesive design theme?
- Does the site maintain a "fresh" look, with frequently updated information and visual elements?
- Does the site provide easy access to legislative bills, amendments, and related documents?
- Does the site provide easy access to state statutes and the state constitution?
- Does the site provide citizens with access to official proceedings (e.g., audio/video stream, transcripts, official records, etc.)?
- Does the site provide citizens with user-friendly methods of interacting and communicating with their legislators?
- Does the site permit feedback from users and provide for responses to user feedback?
- Does the site provide legislators the opportunity to share their message with citizens and/or the media in an ethical manner?
- Does the site provide effective social media interoperability?
- Does the site provide information about legislators and their districts?
- Does the site provide the user with easy access to identifying his or her legislative representative?
- Does the site inform citizens on the activities of their state legislature?
- Does the site educate citizens of all ages about representative democracy and the role of their state legislature?
- Does the site have links to other useful sites and information (e.g., other government agencies, reports, NCSL, etc.)?
- Is the site highly searchable?
- Is the site browser neutral?
- Are all links complete and images linked properly (maintenance of site)?
- Are the site’s features (e.g., copies of documents, multimedia, etc.) cross platform?
- Does the site offer tools (e.g., bill tracking, legislator lookup, etc.)?
- Does the site load quickly and efficiently (e.g., under five seconds)?
- Does the site reflect an effort to be accessible to all types of users?
- Is the site easily usable on mobile devices?
The judging criteria may be amended at the recommendation of the selection committee..
Online Democracy Award Eligibility
To be eligible for the award, a site must be an official legislative site developed and maintained by or under the authority of
(a) a state legislature,
(b) a legislative house, or
(c) an officially recognized legislative partisan caucus.
To be considered for the award, a legislative website must be nominated, either self-nominated or by another state.
Legislative websites in states that have won the award in either of the previous two years are not eligible for consideration.
The number of nominations submitted each year varies. Non-winning nominations are shared only among the committee members and staff.
Award eligibility requirements may be amended at the recommendation of the selection committee with the approval of NALIT and LINCS.