AWS Government, Education, & Nonprofits Blog

(Big) Data Driven Politics: 800m Data Points

Earlier this week you heard MPAC’s journey to the cloud from the stage at AWS re:Invent, and today we are excited to share with you Quorum’s story.

Think big data: everything political from bills, votes, tweets, letters, and more.

With an election year coming up, politics are on the center stage. Whether you vote red or blue, there is much more that goes on behind the scenes that is driving politics today.

All of these questions amount to data. Every hearing, every bill, every vote, every tweet creates more and more data. And all of this data can be analyzed to reveal telling trends that help inform politics and build legislative strategies. However, without the use of technology, a lot of this data is mined by hand, resulting in time loss and low productivity.

This frustration led to the creation of Quorum. Quorum is an online legislative strategy platform that provides legislative professionals access to the world’s most comprehensive database of legislative information, with quantitative insights and modern project management tools making it easier to track legislation, build support, and take action.

As a boot-strap, born in the cloud start up comprised of 10 employees, Quorum had big ambitions for their large amounts of data that had to be accessed quickly, easily, and at a low cost. So Quorum turned to the AWS Cloud.

Data first

Two years ago when this project began, there was no central application program interface (API) at either the federal or state level to collect this type of data. There was no ability to search and find out what people were saying on the floor or committee hearings. Quorum set out to solve this problem and create transparency and knowledge of political data.

The first step to their project was to find all of the relevant information and build the world’s most comprehensive database of political data. In order to do this, they built a centrally-managed, easily-searchable database.

For example, with Quorum, it is now possible to search all different press releases from all members of congress with ease and at a click of a button. No longer do you have to weed through stacks of paper or search across sites in different formats.

Realizing the benefits of technology, Quorum relied on AWS to give them the power and flexibility to get the data needed and to eventually analyze it quickly and comprehensively in real time. Once you have the access to data you can figure out what it means, and then use it to inform and expand your decisions.

Analytics second

Powered by AWS, Quorum is able to leverage compute power from the outset, so instead of just having access to the data, Quorum is able to give insight into political trends from the big data produced.

With all of the data collected, Quorum built a quantitative analytics layer on top of it. They built analytic tools and data set filters to find insights. Quorum’s algorithms process over 800 million data points to calculate hundreds of different statistics about each member of Congress’ legislative history.

Additionally, there are a number of tasks that can be automated using computer science. Quorum offers tools that enable users to automatically identify all changes between various versions of a bill, create legislative scorecards on votes, bills, and amendments, and rank all 435 Congressional districts by over 1,000 demographic statistics. Quorum also facilitates legislative tracking, allowing users to easily assign members of Congress to lists and keep track of notes and outreach to each of the 535 members.

By creating a comprehensive database of legislative information, Quorum helps congress benefit from modern technology and data. Watch this video to hear from Jonathan Marks, Cofounder of Quorum, and learn more about Quorum and the cloud.