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Congressional Voting Records: A Beginner's Guide

1876 to 1988

[View of the House of Representatives chamber after rennovation] [sic]. [ca. 1950]. Harris & Ewing Collection. Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division.

Historically the online availability of congressional voting records for laws passed from 1876 to 1988 has been extremely limited, as the online voting information compiled by the Clerk of the House and the Senate Bill Clerk, available on both chambers' pages, was only available from 1989 forward. Fortunately, many historical volumes of the Congressional Record have just recently been added to the Government Publishing Office's govinfo website. Currently, copies of the bound edition from 1873 to 2001 and 2005 to 2015, and copies of the daily edition from 1994 to the present, are searchable on govinfo.

If you can't find what you are looking for online, you might consider visiting a local federal depository library, which will be likely to provide access to the federal government resources you need. To find a federal depository library near you, simply visit the Federal Depository Library Program Directory, click “FDLP Public Page,” and then select your state or territory from the map.

The resources mentioned on the previous page still provide congressional voting information for this period, although the Congressional Record begins to add the additional assistance of the Resume of Congressional Activity. Begun in 1947, the Resume of Congressional Activity provides summary information about the activity of Congress in every session, including the number of “measures introduced” and the number of private and public bills passed. Unlike most resources during this period, copies of the Resume of Congressional Activity can be found on both the House and Senate websites.

In addition to these established resources, two other resources created during this period, the CCH Congressional Index (began in 1938) and the Congressional Quarterly Almanac (began in 1948), offer layouts that are more user-friendly for congressional vote researchers. These resources will provide researchers a one-stop location for in-depth information about the votes on each bill.

Selected Online Resources

The following resources are available from the U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO):

The following materials are available from the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate:

Selected Print Resources

As always, please do not hesitate to contact the librarians here at the Law Library of Congress via our Ask a Librarian service if you have any questions about this or any other legal topic.