For a few years now I’ve wanted to look into integrating committee actions into GovTrack. Along with full roll call votes, it would be nice to be able to see how committee members voted in committee on various issues. Finally I took a look at a report PDF from the House Armed Services committee on the defense appropriations bill to see how they include committee votes. The report PDF is, as far as I know, the only way to find out this information besides personally going to a committee office or, maybe, making a phone call. With all congressional data, there’s never an easy way to get it, but some programming magic (screen scraping) is usually enough to extract the info out of wherever it is.
Not so for committee votes. Reminiscent of the type-print-scan-print-mail-scan-print-type financial disclosure methods in the Senate, committee votes were included in this PDF as an image. That is, the vote was typed up, and then probably printed, scanned, and then imported as an image in the final report. Because it is an image, and not text, it is infeasible to extract this information automatically.
I’ll give the committee the benefit of the doubt that this just happens to be the way they’ve always done it, and change is tough.
But come on. This isn’t transparency.