python client library for interacting with Project Vote Smart API
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Python library for interacting with the Project Vote Smart API.

The Project Vote Smart API provides detailed information on politicians, including bios, votes, and NPAT responses. (

python-votesmart is a project of Sunlight Labs (c) 2008. Written by James Turk <>.

All code is under a BSD-style license, see LICENSE for details.




python >= 2.4

simplejson >= 1.8 (not required with python 2.6, will use built in json module)


To install run

python install

which will install the library into python's site-packages directory.


To initialize the api, all that is required is for it to be imported and for an API key to be defined.

(If you do not have an API key visit to register for one.)

Import votesmart from votesmart:

>>> from votesmart import votesmart

And set your API key:

>>> votesmart.apikey = '<<SET API KEY HERE>>'

address methods

Official API documentation at

The methods getCampaign(candidateId), getCampaignByElection(electionId), and getOffice(candidateId) all return a list of Address objects based on the provided election or candidate id.

Example of getting Nancy Pelosi's office:

>>> addr = votesmart.address.getOffice(26732)[0]
>>> print addr.street,, addr.state
450 Golden Gate Avenue
14th Floor San Francisco CA

getCampaignWebAddress(candidateId) and getOfficeWebAddress(candidateId) return a list of WebAddress objects based on the provided election or candidate id.

Example of getting Nancy Pelosi's web addresses:
>>> for x in votesmart.address.getOfficeWebAddress(26732):
...     print x

candidatebio methods

Official API documentation at

getBio(candidateId) and getAddlBio(candidateId) get a Bio object and a series of AddlBio objects.

Example of getting Nancy Pelosi's bio:

>>> bio = votesmart.candidatebio.getBio(26732)
>>> print 'Born', bio.birthDate, 'in', bio.birthPlace
Born 03/26/1940 in Baltimore, MD
>>> for fact in votesmart.candidatebio.getAddlBio(26732):
...     print fact
Father's Occupation: Congressman for Baltimore, Mayor of Baltimore
Number of Grandchildren: 5

candidates methods

Official API documentation at

  • getByOfficeState(officeId, stateId=None, electionYear=None)
  • getByLastname(lastName, electionYear=None)
  • getByLevenstein(lastName, electionYear=None)
  • getByElection(electionId)
  • getByDistrict(districtId, electionYear=None)
  • getByZip(zip5, zip4=None)

All six methods return a list containing one or more Candidate objects.

Example of fetching all candidates for the NJ Gubernatorial race:

>>> for candidate in votesmart.candidates.getByOfficeState(3, 'NJ'):
...    print candidate
Christopher Christie
Christopher Christie
Jon Corzine
Jon Corzine
Jason Cullen
Christopher Daggett
Kenneth Kaplan
Joshua Leinsdorf
Brian Levine
Alvin Lindsay
David Meiswinkle
Richard Merkt
Gregory Pason
Kostas Petris
Gary Steele
Gary Stein

You will notice that several candidates appear twice, this is due to an unfortunate issue with the Vote Smart API where candidates with multiple parties, or election statuses are duplicated. Be careful when consuming candidate data to dedupe using the fields you find useful.


committee methods

Official API documentation at

getTypes() returns a listing of all CommitteeType.


>>> for c in votesmart.committee.getTypes():
...     print c.committeeTypeId,
H House
S Senate
J Joint

getCommitteesByTypeState(typeId=None, stateId=None) returns a listing of Committee objects, if either typeId isn't specified all committees for that state will be returned, if state isn't specified then congressional committees will be returned.

Example of getting all joint committees:

>>> for c in votesmart.committee.getCommitteesByTypeState(typeId='J'):
...     print c
Joint Committee on Printing
Joint Committee on Taxation
Joint Committee on the Library
Joint Economic Committee

getCommittee(committeeId) get extended details on a committee in a CommitteeDetail object.

Example of getting details on the House Ways & Means committee:

>>> committee = votesmart.committee.getCommittee(23)
>>> print committee.jurisdiction
1. Customs revenue, collection districts, and ports of entry and delivery.
2. Reciprocal trade agreements.
3. Revenue measures generally.
4. Revenue measures relating to insular possessions.
5. Bonded debt of the United States, subject to the last sentence of clause 4(f).
6. Deposit of public monies.
7. Transportation of dutiable goods.
8. Tax exempt foundations and charitable trusts.
9. National social security (except health care and facilities programs that are supported from general revenues as opposed to payroll deductions and except work incentive programs).

getCommitteeMembers(committeeId) gets a list of CommitteeMember objects representing members of the given committee.

Example of getting all members of the Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties:

>>> for member in votesmart.committee.getCommitteeMembers(4015):
...     print member
Representative Jerrold Nadler
Representative James Sensenbrenner
Representative Tammy Baldwin
Representative Stephen Cohen
Representative John Conyers
Representative William Delahunt
Representative Trent Franks
Representative Louie Gohmert
Representative Darrell Issa
Representative James Jordan
Representative Steve King
Representative Tom Rooney
Representative Robert Scott
Representative Brad Sherman
Representative Melvin Watt

district methods

Official API documentation at

getByOfficeState(officeId, stateId, districtName=None) and getByZip(zip5, zip4=None) return a list of District objects matching the specified criteria.

Example of getting all House districts for North Carolina:

>>> for district in votesmart.district.getByOfficeState(5, 'NC'):
...     print district
District 1
District 2
District 3
District 4
District 5
District 6
District 7
District 8
District 9
District 10
District 11
District 12
District 13

election methods

Official API documentation at

getElection(electionId) fetches a single Election object by electionId.

Example of getting details on NC 2008 Gubernatorial election:

>>> election = votesmart.election.getElection(684)
>>> print
North Carolina Gubernatorial 2008
>>> for stage in election.stages:
...     print, stage.electionDate
Primary 2008-05-06
General 2008-11-04

getElectionByYearState(year, stateId=None) and getElectionByZip(zip5, zip4=None, year=None) get all Election objects matching a given criteria. If stateId is not specified it defaults to national elections.

Example of getting details on all elections in North Carolina in 2008:

>>> for election in votesmart.election.getElectionByYearState(2008, 'NC'):
...     print election
North Carolina Congressional 2008
North Carolina Gubernatorial 2008
North Carolina State Legislative 2008
North Carolina State Judicial 2008

getStageCandidates(electionId, stageId, party=None, districtId=None, stateId=None) gets a list of StageCandidate objects matching the given criteria.

Example of getting all North Carolina 2008 Gubernatorial primary candidates:

for candidate in votesmart.election.getStageCandidates(684, 'P')

leadership methods

Official API documentation at

getPositions(stateId=None, officeId=None) gets a list of LeadershipPosition objects matching the given criteria.

Example of getting all Alaska leadership positions:

>>> for pos in votesmart.leadership.getPositions('AK'):
...     print pos.officeName,
State House Speaker
State Senate President
State House Majority Leader
State Senate Majority Leader
State House Minority Leader
State Senate Minority Leader

local methods

Official API documentation at

getCounties(stateId) and getCities(stateId) return lists of counties or cities as Locality objects.

Example of getting all cities in Alaska:

>>> for city in votesmart.local.getCities('AK'):
...     print, city.localId
Anchorage 1
Fairbanks 2
Juneau 4322

getOfficials(localId) gets all Officials known for a given locality.

Example of getting all officials from Anchorage, AK:

>>> for official in votesmart.local.getOfficials(1):
...     print official
Mayor Mark Begich
Assembly Member Chris Birch
Assembly Member Matt Claman
Assembly Member Dan Coffey
Assembly Member Harriet Drummond
Assembly Member Patrick Flynn
Assembly Member Elvi Gray-Jackson
Assembly Member Mike Gutierrez
Assembly Member Jennifer Johnston
Assembly Member Debbie Ossiander
Assembly Member Sheila Selkregg
Assembly Member Bill Starr

measure methods

Official API documentation at

getMeasuresByYearState(year, stateId) gets a list of Measure objects for the provided year and state.

Example of getting all 2008 Maryland Ballot Measures:

>>> for measure in votesmart.measure.getMeasuresByYearState(2008, 'MD'):
...     print measure.measureId, measure.title
1260 Video Lottery
1261 Early Voting

getMeasure(measureId) gets a MeasureDetail object providing more details about a particular measure.

Example of getting more details on Maryland 2008 Early Voting measure:

>>> measure = votesmart.measure.getMeasure(1260)
>>> print measure.source       # just print the url -- summary is long

npat methods

Official API documentation at

NPATs are not converted into objects, the getNpat method is exceptional in that it returns a python dict representing the NPAT in question.

Example of checking John McCain's NPAT:

>>> print votesmart.npat.getNpat(53270)['surveyMessage']
repeatedly refused to provide any responses to citizens on the issues through the 2008 Political Courage Test when asked to do so by national leaders of the political parties, prominent members of the media, Project Vote Smart President Richard Kimball, and Project Vote Smart staff.

office methods

Official API documentation at

getTypes() gets a list of OfficeType objects representing all office types that the PVS API tracks.

Example call:

>>> for type in
...     print type
P: Presidential and Cabinet
C: Congressional
J: Supreme Court
G: Governor and Cabinet
K: State Judicial
L: State Legislature
S: State Wide
H: Local Judicial
N: Local Legislative
M: Local Executive

getBranches() gets a list of OfficeBranch objects representing all branches that the PVS API tracks.

Example call:

>>> for branch in
...     print branch
E: Executive
L: Legislative
J: Judicial

getLevels() gets a list of all OfficeLevel objects representing all office levels that the PVS API tracks.

Example call:

>>> for level in
...     print level
F: Federal
S: State
L: Local

getOfficesByType(typeId), getOfficesByLevel(levelId), getOfficesByTypeLevel(typeId, levelId), and getOfficesByBranchLevel(branchId, levelId) return a list of Office objects based on the provided parameters.

Example of getting all Executive titles for the Local level:

>>> for office in'E', 'L'):
...     print office
Public Advocate

officials methods

Official API documentation at

  • getStatewide(stateId=None)
  • getByOfficeState(officeId, stateId=None)
  • getByLastname(lastName)
  • getByLevenstein(lastName)
  • getByElection(electionId)
  • getByDistrict(districtId)
  • getByZip(zip5, zip4=None)

All officials methods return a list containing one or more Candidate objects.

Example of fetching all senators from California.

>>> for official in votesmart.officials.getByOfficeState(6, 'CA'):
...    print official
Senator Barbara Boxer
Senator Dianne Feinstein

rating methods

Official API documentation at

getCategories(stateId=None) gets a list of Category objects for a given state (national if no state provided).

Example of getting a few of the issue categories for New York:

>>> for category in votesmart.rating.getCategories('NY')[0:5]:
...     print category
2: Abortion Issues
5: Animal Rights and Wildlife Issues
11: Business and Consumers
13: Civil Liberties and Civil Rights
17: Conservative

getSigList(categoryId, stateId=None) gets a list of Sig objects representing all special interest groups associated with a particular category. Optionally a state can be provided to restrict results to a SIG operating within a particular state.

Example of getting a few groups concerned with Environmental Issues:

>>> for sig in votesmart.rating.getSigList(30)[0:5]:
...     print sig
916: American Land Rights Association
934: American Lands Alliance
1081: American Wilderness Coalition
1702: American Wind Energy Association
1107: California Park & Recreation Society

getSig(sigId) gets all details available for a special interest group.

Example getting all details for Sierra Club:

>>> sig = votesmart.rating.getSig(657)
>>> print sig.address,, sig.state
408 C Street, Northeast Washington DC

getCandidateRating(candidateId, sigId) gets a Rating object representing a candidate's rating by a particular special interest group.

Example checking how Sierra Club rated Nancy Pelosi:

>>> for rating in votesmart.rating.getCandidateRating(26732, 657):
...     print rating
Representative Nancy Pelosi supported the interests of the Sierra Club 100 percent in 2003.

state methods

Official API documentation at

getStateIDs() returns State objects for all states (and state-like entities)

Example of printing a few of the states returned from getStateIds:

>>> for state in votesmart.state.getStateIDs()[0:5]:
...     print state
NA National
AS American Samoa
FL Florida
MI Michigan
MO Missouri

getState(stateId) returns a StateDetail object with all known details on a given state.

Example of getting several details about the state of Virginia:

>>> va = votesmart.state.getState('VA')
>>> print va.population, va.motto
6,187,358 (1990) Sic Semper Tyrannis [Thus Always to Tyrants]

votes methods

Official API documentation at

getCategories(year, stateId=None) gets a list of Category objects for a given year and optionally a state (national if no state provided).

Example of getting a few of the national bill categories for 2008:

>>> for category in votesmart.votes.getCategories(2008)[0:5]:
...     print category
2: Abortion Issues
4: Agriculture Issues
5: Animal Rights and Wildlife Issues
10: Budget, Spending and Taxes
11: Business and Consumers

getBill(billId) returns a BillDetail object providing details on a particular bill.

Example of getting details on HR 7321 Auto Industry Financing bill:

>>> bill = votesmart.votes.getBill(8528)
>>> print bill.officialTitle
HR 7321:  To authorize financial assistance to eligible automobile manufacturers, and for other purposes.
>>> for sponsor in bill.sponsors:
...     print sponsor
Barney  Frank
>>> for action in bill.actions:
...     print action
2008-12-10 - Passage

getBillAction(actionId) returns a BillAction object providing details on a particular action taken on a bill.

Example of getting details on an action for HR 5576:

>>> print votesmart.votes.getBillAction(8272)
HR 5576: Making appropriations for the Departments of Transportation, Treasury, and Housing and Urban Development, the Judiciary, District of Columbia, and independent agencies for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2007, and for other purposes.

getBillActionVotes(actionId) and getBillActionVoteByOfficial(actionId, candidateId) retrieve lists of Vote objects for a given action (and official).

Example of getting Nancy Pelosi's vote on passage of HR 7321:

>>> print votesmart.votes.getBillActionVoteByOfficial(23069, 26732)
Pelosi, Nancy: Yea

There are 8 methods that return Bill objects based on various parameters:

  • getByBillNumber(billNumber)
  • getBillsByCategoryYearState(categoryId, year, stateId=None)
  • getBillsByYearState(year, stateId=None)
  • getBillsByOfficialYearOffice(candidateId, year, officeId=None)
  • getBillsByCandidateCategoryOffice(candidateId, categoryId, officeId=None)
  • getBillsBySponsorYear(candidateId, year)
  • getBillsBySponsorCategory(candidateId, categoryId)
  • getBillsByStateRecent(stateId=None, amount=None)

Example of getting a few recently tracked bills for 2008:

>>> for bill in votesmart.votes.getBillsByYearState(2008)[-5:]:
...     print bill
HR 7081
HR 2095 Amtrak Reauthorization
HR 2095
HR 6867 Emergency Extended Unemployment Compensation
HR 7321 Auto Industry Financing

getVetoes(candidateId) returns all vetoes for a particular executive.

Example of getting all of George W. Bush's vetoes:

>>> for veto in votesmart.votes.getVetoes(22369):
...     print veto
HR 6331 Medicare Bill
HR 6124 Second Farm, Nutrition, and Bioenergy Act of 2007 (Farm Bill)
HR 2419 Farm, Nutrition, and Bioenergy Act of 2007 (Farm Bill)
HR 1585
HR 3963 Children's Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2007 (CHIP)
HR 976 State Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) Reauthorization
S 5 Stem Cell Research Act of 2007
HR 1591 Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Bill of 2007 with Iraq Withdrawal Timeline