Michael S. Lynch

University of Georgia Congress Project

Faculty and students at the University of Georgia are currently working on an extensive data collection project focusing on voting in the U.S. House and Senate. Professor Tony Madonna has been working with UGA students on the project since 2010. Professor Lynch assisted with the project while he was at the University of Kansas, but has become much more involved since moving to UGA in 2013. Professors Jamie Carson and Keith Poole have been involved in the planning and funding of the project.

The goal of the project is to collect data on amending activity to landmark bills passed by the U.S. Congress. Existing roll call voting databases include amendment data, but only those that received a recorded vote. By coding both recorded and unrecorded amendment voting, we are developing a much more nuanced database of congressional voting than currently exists. To date, we have collected data on 27,192 amendments offered to approximately 361 landmark enactments. We have examined bills from the 45th Congress (1877-1878) to the 112th Congresses (2011-2012).


The data include information on, among other things, how the amendment was dispensed with (roll call vote, division, teller, voice, withdrawn, not voted on), whether it was offered by way of a motion to recommit, dispensed with by some other procedure (point of order, motion to table, failed cloture vote, etc.), whether it passed or failed, what it sought to amend (i.e. the bill, another amendment), who the sponsor of the amendment was, and if it was offered on behalf of a committee. A much more detailed discussion of the project can be found here.

These data have great potential for congressional research. We have already used initial data from this project to examine how Senators behavior changed in reaction to their constituents after the 17th Amendment introduced direct elections. We have a variety of published work and working papers related to this project. We hope to use additional amendment data to investigate the development of Rules Committee procedures in the House, the development of committee practices in both chambers, and the development of conference committee practices. We are most excited about the data's potential to allow us to explore how members' decision to include or omit items in the roll call record has changed over time. These changes will allow us to carefully investigate how the link between members and their constituents has changed during the history of Congress. We have begun to draft a book manuscript on this last topic.

Research Team

We have been working on the Georgia Congress Project since the Fall of 2010. Since then 7 graduate students, 56 undergraduates, and 2 high school students have been part of the research team. Without their help, the over 27,000 amendments collected to date would not have been possible.

Undergraduate students worked on the project through the research-focused Congressional Amending Process course offered at the University of Georgia. This class has been offered as both a regularly-scheduled course and as an independent study course. Graduate students have been both paid research assistants and volunteers with an interest in congressional procedure.

We would like the thank all the students that have made this project possible: Nathaniel Ament-Stone, Rain Ammons, Whitney Arp, Matthew Baker, Ethan Boldt, Jason Byers, Lauren Corbett Bryant, Ananda Costa, Shellea Crochet, Michael Evans, Jason Fern, James Floyd, Matthew Fowler, Vinita Gandhi, David Gelman, Sophie Giberga, Hannah Greenberg, Casey Grippando, Cody Hall, Leyall Harb, Sharne Haywood, Daniel Helmick, Kyle Hollimon, Eric Howell, Nick Howard, Dory Ille, Taylor Johnston, Da Hae Kim, Cody Knapp, Megan Mayfield, Annabel McSpadden, Kayce Mobley, Amber Morgan, Erin Munger, Wes Nichols, Justin Pinkerton, Elaina Polson, Scott Riley, Matthew Roberts, Melissa Siegel, Joel Sievert, Veselin Simonov, Laine Shay, Melissa Strickland, Rachel Surminsky, Kelsey Thomas, Javier Trejo, Adam Veale, Michael Watson, and Andrew Wills.

Research from the Project

We have already written several papers using data from the collection project. The first paper listed below gives an overview of the project and our most complete analysis of the amendment data to date.

  • Michael S. Lynch, Anthony J. Madonna, Jordan McKissick, Rebecca A. Bennett, and Hannah M. Weiss. 2015. "Procedural Polarization: Examining Changes in the Construction of the Roll Call Voting Record, 1877-2012." unpublished manuscript. (link).
  • Michael S. Lynch and Anthony J. Madonna. 2013. "Viva Voce: Implications of the Disappearing Voice Vote, 1865-1996." Social Science Quarterly. 94: 530-550. (Wiley Online).
  • Jaime L. Carson, Anthony J. Madonna, Mark E. Owens, and Joel Sievert. 2012. "Building a Record: Amending Activity, Position Taking, and the Seventeenth Amendment." unpublished manuscript. (link).
  • David Gelman, Michael S. Lynch, Anthony J. Madonna, and Mark E. Owens. 2012. "Majority Party Influence in an Open Rule Setting: Examining Amending Activity in the 45th Congress, 1877-1879." unpublished manuscript. (link).

Questions and Comments

If you have questions about the project or would like to learn more about it, please contact us. Either Tony or I would be happy to hear from you.