Since the 1990s many legislatures have made their documents and activities available to the public through the Internet. While this initial phase of transparency met some needs, it is no longer sufficient simply to make legislative documents available electronically. Legislative systems that seek to be authoritative must meet the highest possible standard in at least five key areas: 1) accuracy 2) timeliness 3) completeness 4) clarity and 5) context. This paper applies these criteria to the evaluation and design of legislative websites. First, an evaluation of the European Parliament and the United States Congress systems reveals how some of these standards are being met. Second, a case study illustrates how the five criteria have been built into the XML design of U.S. congressional legislative data. In conclusion, we discuss the implications for legislature transparency.
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