The N.Y. state Senate’s new website: More than just a new paint job

A screenshot of the updated New York state Senate website.

The New York state Senate rolled out a new website last week that aims to please two of that institution’s most important constituents — members of the chamber and the citizens who elect them.

The new design represents a sharp contrast with the Senate’s old site as well as the web presence of the State Assembly. In addition to a modern, mobile-friendly design, the new site includes features that make it easier for constituents to communicate with their senators and for senators to track and understand what their constituents care about.

The New York state Senate has had more than its share of problems recently, and a new website won’t serve as a panacea. But, anything that makes it easier for everyday citizens to track their representatives and have their voices heard is a step in the right direction.

According to a press release accompanying the launch, “The Senate’s new and improved site will empower New Yorkers to more easily participate in their state government — from tracking the status of important bills in real-time to receiving periodic updates on issues they care about — and providing their immediate input and feedback on anything and everything that is happening in Albany.”

Constituents will now be able to monitor the progress of bills, share their “vote” directly with their legislator and explain their thinking. The system also provides a private interface for senators to track public opinion on a given bill in real time.

We’re happy to see the New York state Senate thinking deeply about how to make its site accessible and useful for as broad an audience as possible while encouraging the type of conversation that is essential to a healthy democracy.

Of course, the website refresh means that we’ll have to re-test New York for our Open Legislative Data Report Card. The state already garnered an “A” grade, but there is always room for improvement. Look forward to that evaluation in the coming weeks.