But that doesnt mean those Web sites will receive high scores from the CMF. In past reports, CMF officials have stressed the need for up-to-date information such as currently sponsored legislation a feature that is often either absent or hopelessly buried.
Blogs, Twitter links and videos, on the other hand, are weighed less heavily, Hysom said.
Were not evaluating Web sites based on the underlying technology, he said. Were really looking from the constituents viewpoint.
A handful of evaluators spend months studying the Web sites, making it a long and costly endeavor. Hysom estimated that the whole effort costs about $150,000, and the organization hasnt yet secured all the funding.
The CMF is still pushing ahead as planned and will re-evaluate the project if sufficient funding isnt found in time, Hysom said.
In the meantime, Congressional offices are preparing for the judges.
Sara Lasure, spokeswoman for Rep. John Boozman, said she first began working for the Arkansas Republican in the days after his office won a 2007 Gold Mouse award. The pressure is on, she said, to match her predecessors accomplishment.
The office used the CMFs 2007 recommendations to improve the site, making it more user-friendly and adding extras such as an RSS feed. The site also has a record of Boozmans votes placed prominently on the homepage.
But the most popular parts of the Web site remain the blog, the news section and the photo gallery, Lasure said.
We use ours as a 24-hour office, she said. If we cant answer the phone, a constituent can go to the Web site.
Like many Members, Boozman has also opened accounts on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, including links to them on his official Web site.
Such integration will be a major topic in the CMFs next report, Hysom said.
There will be significant discussion in the new report on how Members are using new media, he said. There really is this almost palpable sense on the Hill that Members need to be using these tools and using them well.
Vice President Joe Biden waits to conduct a mock swearing-in ceremony with Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, in the Capitol's Old Senate Chamber, December 2, 2014. Schatz was sworn in to serve the remainder of his term since he was appointed to the seat after Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, passed away.