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Unrecorded Votes

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  • David Steinbrunner
    Hello, I have recently started working with the govtrack data, so I would like to start out by saying thanks for the great resource. While working with the
    Message 1 of 11 , Jan 3, 2011
    Hello,

    I have recently started working with the govtrack data, so I would like to
    start out by saying thanks for the great resource.

    While working with the 111th data I noticed that the speaker of the house
    and the representatives from the U.S. Territories and DC had low total
    vote counts. I also noticed varying vote counts due to people not having
    full terms.

    I went into this expecting everyone in office to have a recorded vote for
    every roll call so I was slightly confused by the results and wanted to
    dig deeper.

    I did some web searches on the matter found this:
    http://projects.washingtonpost.com/congress/111/house/vote-missers/

    Which initially made me even more confused especially on the subject of
    the speaker because comparing her to another 0% rep shows loads of "Not
    Voting" for the speaker:

    http://www.opencongress.org/people/compare?person1=400314&person2=400244&re
    presentatives=true

    I decided to code up something to show summaries of vote totals for each
    person from the govtrack data and if no data was given for a roll call to
    see if the person in office or not. I have attached the result sets for
    each house. These show that the issues noted at the start of this email
    are the majority of what cause unrecorded votes, which is good because
    there were noticeable. There is, however, something I'm missing because
    from my calculations Rep. Gary Miller has 10 unrecorded votes and served a
    full term, for example. Also, it appears Rep. John Boehner is the only
    rep to have all votes recorded.

    Perhaps I have a bug in my code so I have attached more detail related to
    what I'm considering in and out of office votes which might point out an
    issue without someone having to duplicate my effort. If anyone would like
    to see my code feel free to let me know and I can send it to you directly.
    Note that it is written in perl.

    In any case, assuming my code spit out the right results, could the be
    exposing potential bugs in the data or no? If not, then what are the
    cases in which legislators are allowed or not allowed, in the case of U.S.
    Territories and DC, to have a recored vote. Are there terms related to
    when the speaker casts votes or is it at his/her discretion?

    Thanks,

    --
    David Steinbrunner
  • Steve Toub
    Hi David-- I struggled with this stuff as well when I was QAing some vote data. I m not up on all the rules and jargon but in my mind I eventually assume the
    Message 2 of 11 , Jan 3, 2011
    • 0 Attachment
      Hi David--

      I struggled with this stuff as well when I was QAing some vote data. I'm not up on all the rules and jargon but in my mind I eventually assume the data was valid, though counter-intuitive.

      There are two different issues:
      • a vote is recorded for a member, but the value of the vote is "Not voting", as in the WaPo DB...they were absent or didn't want to be locked into a yes or no vote for whatever reason; and
      • no vote is recorded for a member: the person is omitted from having any vote, even a "Not voting" vote.

      I found (and you did too) three of these cases where a person is omitted from a vote:

      1. Speaker votes at their discretion
             http://groups.yahoo.com/group/govtrack/message/802
      2. Reps from U.S. Territories and DC only vote when their votes don't affect the outcome
            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Delegate_(United_States_Congress)
      3. At the beginning of a Congress, some members aren't sworn in yet. Throughout a Congress, members come and go (e.g., death, retirement, special elections, appointments).

      I'm not sure what explains Boehner being the only one always voting, but wouldn't be surprised if it's due to him being Majority Leader in 111th.

          --SET


      On 1/3/11 6:40 AM, David Steinbrunner wrote:
       

      Hello,

      I have recently started working with the govtrack data, so I would like to
      start out by saying thanks for the great resource.

      While working with the 111th data I noticed that the speaker of the house
      and the representatives from the U.S. Territories and DC had low total
      vote counts. I also noticed varying vote counts due to people not having
      full terms.

      I went into this expecting everyone in office to have a recorded vote for
      every roll call so I was slightly confused by the results and wanted to
      dig deeper.

      I did some web searches on the matter found this:
      http://projects.washingtonpost.com/congress/111/house/vote-missers/

      Which initially made me even more confused especially on the subject of
      the speaker because comparing her to another 0% rep shows loads of "Not
      Voting" for the speaker:

      http://www.opencongress.org/people/compare?person1=400314&person2=400244&re
      presentatives=true

      I decided to code up something to show summaries of vote totals for each
      person from the govtrack data and if no data was given for a roll call to
      see if the person in office or not. I have attached the result sets for
      each house. These show that the issues noted at the start of this email
      are the majority of what cause unrecorded votes, which is good because
      there were noticeable. There is, however, something I'm missing because
      from my calculations Rep. Gary Miller has 10 unrecorded votes and served a
      full term, for example. Also, it appears Rep. John Boehner is the only
      rep to have all votes recorded.

      Perhaps I have a bug in my code so I have attached more detail related to
      what I'm considering in and out of office votes which might point out an
      issue without someone having to duplicate my effort. If anyone would like
      to see my code feel free to let me know and I can send it to you directly.
      Note that it is written in perl.

      In any case, assuming my code spit out the right results, could the be
      exposing potential bugs in the data or no? If not, then what are the
      cases in which legislators are allowed or not allowed, in the case of U.S.
      Territories and DC, to have a recored vote. Are there terms related to
      when the speaker casts votes or is it at his/her discretion?

      Thanks,

      --
      David Steinbrunner

    • Derek Willis
      Steve s answer is good, but permit me to elaborate: In the WaPo db (which I helped build), there are the following options for a member s vote: 1. Yes/No 2.
      Message 3 of 11 , Jan 3, 2011
      • 0 Attachment
        Steve's answer is good, but permit me to elaborate:

        In the WaPo db (which I helped build), there are the following options for a member's vote:
            1. Yes/No
            2. Present (House only)
            3. Conflict of Interest (Senate only, very rarely invoked)
            4. Not Voting (member did not vote)

        In addition, a member who was not in office at the time of the vote has no record at all (the NYT API, which I now work on, lists the Vacant seats for each House or Senate vote).

        Delegates, resident commissioners and other similar members of the House can only vote on amendments on the floor (the Committee of the Whole as it's called), but not on other floor votes like passage. This practice is usually permitted by Democratic majorities and is likely to be rescinded once the new congress convenes this week. So those members are only eligible for a few dozen votes - the others should not count as "misses" because they are not permitted to vote on those questions.

        The Speaker votes at his or her discretion, and the lack of a vote is not counted as a missed vote in the same way as a normal member (at least, not by traditional observers such as Congressional Quarterly).

        One thing about the Post's database right now - it has not been updated since mid-November, so it does not reflect the full set of votes in the 111th Congress (my friends at the Post are working on updating it). fwiw, I've got Lynn Jenkins of Kansas, Jason Altmire of Pennsylvania and Frank LoBiondo of New Jersey as having perfect voting records in both sessions of the 111th Congress.

        Derek Willis

        On Mon, Jan 3, 2011 at 11:19 AM, Steve Toub <govtrack@...> wrote:
         

        Hi David--

        I struggled with this stuff as well when I was QAing some vote data. I'm not up on all the rules and jargon but in my mind I eventually assume the data was valid, though counter-intuitive.

        There are two different issues:

        • a vote is recorded for a member, but the value of the vote is "Not voting", as in the WaPo DB...they were absent or didn't want to be locked into a yes or no vote for whatever reason; and
        • no vote is recorded for a member: the person is omitted from having any vote, even a "Not voting" vote.

        I found (and you did too) three of these cases where a person is omitted from a vote:

        1. Speaker votes at their discretion
               http://groups.yahoo.com/group/govtrack/message/802
        2. Reps from U.S. Territories and DC only vote when their votes don't affect the outcome
              http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Delegate_(United_States_Congress)
        3. At the beginning of a Congress, some members aren't sworn in yet. Throughout a Congress, members come and go (e.g., death, retirement, special elections, appointments).

        I'm not sure what explains Boehner being the only one always voting, but wouldn't be surprised if it's due to him being Majority Leader in 111th.

            --SET


        On 1/3/11 6:40 AM, David Steinbrunner wrote:
         

        Hello,

        I have recently started working with the govtrack data, so I would like to
        start out by saying thanks for the great resource.

        While working with the 111th data I noticed that the speaker of the house
        and the representatives from the U.S. Territories and DC had low total
        vote counts. I also noticed varying vote counts due to people not having
        full terms.

        I went into this expecting everyone in office to have a recorded vote for
        every roll call so I was slightly confused by the results and wanted to
        dig deeper.

        I did some web searches on the matter found this:
        http://projects.washingtonpost.com/congress/111/house/vote-missers/

        Which initially made me even more confused especially on the subject of
        the speaker because comparing her to another 0% rep shows loads of "Not
        Voting" for the speaker:

        http://www.opencongress.org/people/compare?person1=400314&person2=400244&re
        presentatives=true

        I decided to code up something to show summaries of vote totals for each
        person from the govtrack data and if no data was given for a roll call to
        see if the person in office or not. I have attached the result sets for
        each house. These show that the issues noted at the start of this email
        are the majority of what cause unrecorded votes, which is good because
        there were noticeable. There is, however, something I'm missing because
        from my calculations Rep. Gary Miller has 10 unrecorded votes and served a
        full term, for example. Also, it appears Rep. John Boehner is the only
        rep to have all votes recorded.

        Perhaps I have a bug in my code so I have attached more detail related to
        what I'm considering in and out of office votes which might point out an
        issue without someone having to duplicate my effort. If anyone would like
        to see my code feel free to let me know and I can send it to you directly.
        Note that it is written in perl.

        In any case, assuming my code spit out the right results, could the be
        exposing potential bugs in the data or no? If not, then what are the
        cases in which legislators are allowed or not allowed, in the case of U.S.
        Territories and DC, to have a recored vote. Are there terms related to
        when the speaker casts votes or is it at his/her discretion?

        Thanks,

        --
        David Steinbrunner


      • David Steinbrunner
        ... Well I did find an issue which cleans my results up a bit. My code was not expecting votes that did not contain the typical vote keys. This clears up my
        Message 4 of 11 , Jan 4, 2011
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          On 1/3/11 11:56 AM, "Derek Willis" <dwillis@...> wrote:

          >Steve's answer is good, but permit me to elaborate:
          >In the WaPo db (which I helped build), there are the following options
          >for a member's vote:
          > 1. Yes/No
          > 2. Present (House only)
          > 3. Conflict of Interest (Senate only, very rarely invoked)
          > 4. Not Voting (member did not vote)
          >
          >In addition, a member who was not in office at the time of the vote has
          >no record at all (the NYT API, which I now work on, lists the Vacant
          >seats for each House or Senate vote).
          >
          >Delegates, resident commissioners and other similar members of the House
          >can only vote on amendments on the floor (the Committee of the Whole as
          >it's called), but not on other floor votes like passage. This practice is
          >usually permitted by Democratic majorities and is likely to be rescinded
          >once the new congress convenes this week. So those members are only
          >eligible for a few dozen votes - the others should not count as "misses"
          >because they are not permitted to vote on those questions.
          >
          >The Speaker votes at his or her discretion, and the lack of a vote is not
          >counted as a missed vote in the same way as a normal member (at least,
          >not by traditional observers such as Congressional Quarterly).
          >
          >One thing about the Post's database right now - it has not been updated
          >since mid-November, so it does not reflect the full set of votes in the
          >111th Congress (my friends at the Post are working on updating it). fwiw,
          >I've got Lynn Jenkins of Kansas, Jason Altmire of Pennsylvania and Frank
          >LoBiondo of New Jersey as having perfect voting records in both sessions
          >of the 111th Congress.

          Well I did find an issue which cleans my results up a bit. My code was
          not expecting votes that did not contain the typical vote keys. This
          clears up my example Rep. John Boehner being the only person to have a
          full count. The example with Rep. Gary Miller having 10 unrecorded along
          with a few other examples I have looked at shows that someone can be in
          office per the data but not start actually voting for days. Does this
          sound correct an is it valid protocol?

          When I get a chance I'll drill down further for any other anomalies.

          Thanks,

          --
          David Steinbrunner
        • Josh Tauberer
          Thanks for looking so closely into this everyone. Everything sounded ... That doesn t sound right. (I m assuming there were votes in the intervening time
          Message 5 of 11 , Jan 4, 2011
          • 0 Attachment
            Thanks for looking so closely into this everyone. Everything sounded
            right to me up till:

            > someone can be in office per the data but not start actually voting for days.

            That doesn't sound right. (I'm assuming there were votes in the
            intervening time right?) Occasionally there's the question of if
            someone's sworn in at noon do I round the day up or down? So off-by-one
            is plausible. If it's more than that, the start date could be wrong. For
            House members, the clerk website has a list of "vacancies" (I think
            archivally as well) that would answer this question.


            - Josh Tauberer
            - CivicImpulse / GovTrack.us

            http://razor.occams.info | www.govtrack.us | civicimpulse.com

            "Members of both sides are reminded not to use guests of the
            House as props."

            On 01/04/2011 10:21 AM, David Steinbrunner wrote:
            > On 1/3/11 11:56 AM, "Derek Willis"<dwillis@...> wrote:
            >
            >> Steve's answer is good, but permit me to elaborate:
            >> In the WaPo db (which I helped build), there are the following options
            >> for a member's vote:
            >> 1. Yes/No
            >> 2. Present (House only)
            >> 3. Conflict of Interest (Senate only, very rarely invoked)
            >> 4. Not Voting (member did not vote)
            >>
            >> In addition, a member who was not in office at the time of the vote has
            >> no record at all (the NYT API, which I now work on, lists the Vacant
            >> seats for each House or Senate vote).
            >>
            >> Delegates, resident commissioners and other similar members of the House
            >> can only vote on amendments on the floor (the Committee of the Whole as
            >> it's called), but not on other floor votes like passage. This practice is
            >> usually permitted by Democratic majorities and is likely to be rescinded
            >> once the new congress convenes this week. So those members are only
            >> eligible for a few dozen votes - the others should not count as "misses"
            >> because they are not permitted to vote on those questions.
            >>
            >> The Speaker votes at his or her discretion, and the lack of a vote is not
            >> counted as a missed vote in the same way as a normal member (at least,
            >> not by traditional observers such as Congressional Quarterly).
            >>
            >> One thing about the Post's database right now - it has not been updated
            >> since mid-November, so it does not reflect the full set of votes in the
            >> 111th Congress (my friends at the Post are working on updating it). fwiw,
            >> I've got Lynn Jenkins of Kansas, Jason Altmire of Pennsylvania and Frank
            >> LoBiondo of New Jersey as having perfect voting records in both sessions
            >> of the 111th Congress.
            >
            > Well I did find an issue which cleans my results up a bit. My code was
            > not expecting votes that did not contain the typical vote keys. This
            > clears up my example Rep. John Boehner being the only person to have a
            > full count. The example with Rep. Gary Miller having 10 unrecorded along
            > with a few other examples I have looked at shows that someone can be in
            > office per the data but not start actually voting for days. Does this
            > sound correct an is it valid protocol?
            >
            > When I get a chance I'll drill down further for any other anomalies.
            >
            > Thanks,
            >
            > --
            > David Steinbrunner
            >
            >
            >
            >
            >
            > ------------------------------------
            >
            > Yahoo! Groups Links
            >
            >
            >
          • David Steinbrunner
            ... Early on I thought I had an off by one in my determining the date stuff myself but my findings, at least in this case, show that it is not the issue. I
            Message 6 of 11 , Jan 4, 2011
            On 1/4/11 11:11 PM, "Josh Tauberer" <tauberer@...> wrote:

            >Thanks for looking so closely into this everyone. Everything sounded
            >right to me up till:
            >
            >> someone can be in office per the data but not start actually voting for
            >>days.
            >
            >That doesn't sound right. (I'm assuming there were votes in the
            >intervening time right?) Occasionally there's the question of if
            >someone's sworn in at noon do I round the day up or down? So off-by-one
            >is plausible. If it's more than that, the start date could be wrong. For
            >House members, the clerk website has a list of "vacancies" (I think
            >archivally as well) that would answer this question.

            Early on I thought I had an off by one in my determining the date stuff
            myself but my findings, at least in this case, show that it is not the
            issue.

            I checked here:
            http://clerk.house.gov/member_info/vacancies.html

            And did not see anything related to the example I'm working with. Gary
            Miller has actually held this perticualr seat since 2003 per Wikipedia:
            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gary_Miller

            Looking at the govtrack web view you can see that rolls 1-11 are missing
            with the exception of 2 being "Not Voting":
            http://www.govtrack.us/congress/votes.xpd?year=2009&person=400277

            I'm assuming the source of these early 2009 votes is here and it seems to
            match up with what govtrack reports:
            http://clerk.house.gov/evs/2009/ROLL_000.asp

            I have attached the latest result sets I have from my script if anyone is
            interested. I have a smaller, cleaned up version of the output_in.csv
            file with excludes data from the Speaker and the US Territory/DC reps and
            am not attaching the output_out.csv file since it is large and ultimately
            not as useful as the other smaller files.

            --
            David Steinbrunner
          • Derek Willis
            Now I remember this situation - the Clerk s office did not publish Gary Miller s votes in the initial portion of the 111th congress. He did vote, but the
            Message 7 of 11 , Jan 5, 2011
            • 0 Attachment
              Now I remember this situation - the Clerk's office did not publish Gary Miller's votes in the initial portion of the 111th congress. He did vote, but the Clerk's site does not reflect that. This is a very rare occurrence - the only time I can remember it happening - so I would not consider it typical. But it has not been fixed, either.

              Derek

              On Wed, Jan 5, 2011 at 1:03 AM, David Steinbrunner <dsteinbrunner@...> wrote:
               
              [Attachment(s) from David Steinbrunner included below]

              On 1/4/11 11:11 PM, "Josh Tauberer" <tauberer@...> wrote:

              >Thanks for looking so closely into this everyone. Everything sounded
              >right to me up till:
              >
              >> someone can be in office per the data but not start actually voting for
              >>days.
              >
              >That doesn't sound right. (I'm assuming there were votes in the
              >intervening time right?) Occasionally there's the question of if
              >someone's sworn in at noon do I round the day up or down? So off-by-one
              >is plausible. If it's more than that, the start date could be wrong. For
              >House members, the clerk website has a list of "vacancies" (I think
              >archivally as well) that would answer this question.

              Early on I thought I had an off by one in my determining the date stuff
              myself but my findings, at least in this case, show that it is not the
              issue.

              I checked here:
              http://clerk.house.gov/member_info/vacancies.html

              And did not see anything related to the example I'm working with. Gary
              Miller has actually held this perticualr seat since 2003 per Wikipedia:
              http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gary_Miller

              Looking at the govtrack web view you can see that rolls 1-11 are missing
              with the exception of 2 being "Not Voting":
              http://www.govtrack.us/congress/votes.xpd?year=2009&person=400277

              I'm assuming the source of these early 2009 votes is here and it seems to
              match up with what govtrack reports:
              http://clerk.house.gov/evs/2009/ROLL_000.asp

              I have attached the latest result sets I have from my script if anyone is
              interested. I have a smaller, cleaned up version of the output_in.csv
              file with excludes data from the Speaker and the US Territory/DC reps and
              am not attaching the output_out.csv file since it is large and ultimately
              not as useful as the other smaller files.

              --
              David Steinbrunner


            • David Steinbrunner
              ... Ok, looking at other examples in my speardsheets I m seeing how vacancies and day of taking office appear to account for most of the issue but I m not done
              Message 8 of 11 , Jan 6, 2011
              • 0 Attachment
                On 1/5/11 9:58 AM, "Derek Willis" <dwillis@...> wrote:

                >Now I remember this situation - the Clerk's office did not publish Gary
                >Miller's votes in the initial portion of the 111th congress. He did vote,
                >but the Clerk's site does not reflect that. This is a very rare
                >occurrence - the only time I can remember it happening - so I would not
                >consider it typical. But it has not been fixed, either.

                Ok, looking at other examples in my speardsheets I'm seeing how vacancies
                and day of taking office appear to account for most of the issue but I'm
                not done making sure that is 100% case aside from the above.

                In the case of the Clerk's site not being correct, what is the proper way
                to get the ball rolling so it can be correct, or is this 2 year odd issue
                evidence that it doesn't? Should calling and/or emailing the clerk's
                office along with the office of the legislator in question be enough or is
                there a better route?

                Also, is there a plan to include vacancy info in the govtrack data set?

                Thanks,

                --
                David Steinbrunner
              • Derek Willis
                I ve contacted the Clerk s office before about this issue but it s still there, so take that for what it s worth. I should note that in Gary Miller s case, as
                Message 9 of 11 , Jan 6, 2011
                • 0 Attachment
                  I've contacted the Clerk's office before about this issue but it's
                  still there, so take that for what it's worth. I should note that in
                  Gary Miller's case, as in Peter DeFazio of Oregon this term, the seat
                  is "vacant" because both men were not present on the first day of the
                  session to be sworn in, and thus were not sworn in at that time. So
                  the Clerk is technically correct, I suppose, even though DeFazio is
                  the duly elected member from Oregon's 4th District. But if they're not
                  sworn in, they can't vote, so I don't think this is truly an error.

                  Derek

                  On Thu, Jan 6, 2011 at 10:02 AM, David Steinbrunner
                  <dsteinbrunner@...> wrote:
                  > On 1/5/11 9:58 AM, "Derek Willis" <dwillis@...> wrote:
                  >
                  >>Now I remember this situation - the Clerk's office did not publish Gary
                  >>Miller's votes in the initial portion of the 111th congress. He did vote,
                  >>but the Clerk's site does not reflect that. This is a very rare
                  >>occurrence - the only time I can remember it happening - so I would not
                  >>consider it typical. But it has not been fixed, either.
                  >
                  > Ok, looking at other examples in my speardsheets I'm seeing how vacancies
                  > and day of taking office appear to account for most of the issue but I'm
                  > not done making sure that is 100% case aside from the above.
                  >
                  > In the case of the Clerk's site not being correct, what is the proper way
                  > to get the ball rolling so it can be correct, or is this 2 year odd issue
                  > evidence that it doesn't? Should calling and/or emailing the clerk's
                  > office along with the office of the legislator in question be enough or is
                  > there a better route?
                  >
                  > Also, is there a plan to include vacancy info in the govtrack data set?
                  >
                  > Thanks,
                  >
                  > --
                  > David Steinbrunner
                  >
                  >
                  >
                  >
                • David Steinbrunner
                  ... So the Clerk s site currently saying 0 vacancies is technically not correct it seems. In the subject of vacancy data, having a sworn in date or datetime
                  Message 10 of 11 , Jan 6, 2011
                  • 0 Attachment
                    On 1/6/11 10:05 AM, "Derek Willis" <dwillis@...> wrote:

                    >I've contacted the Clerk's office before about this issue but it's
                    >still there, so take that for what it's worth. I should note that in
                    >Gary Miller's case, as in Peter DeFazio of Oregon this term, the seat
                    >is "vacant" because both men were not present on the first day of the
                    >session to be sworn in, and thus were not sworn in at that time. So
                    >the Clerk is technically correct, I suppose, even though DeFazio is
                    >the duly elected member from Oregon's 4th District. But if they're not
                    >sworn in, they can't vote, so I don't think this is truly an error.

                    So the Clerk's site currently saying 0 vacancies is technically not
                    correct it seems.

                    In the subject of vacancy data, having a sworn in date or datetime would
                    be helpful for this type of situation.

                    Thanks again,

                    --
                    David Steinbrunner
                  • Derek Willis
                    Well, DeFazio was just sworn in, so now it s correct :-) On Thu, Jan 6, 2011 at 10:47 AM, David Steinbrunner
                    Message 11 of 11 , Jan 6, 2011
                    • 0 Attachment
                      Well, DeFazio was just sworn in, so now it's correct :-)

                      On Thu, Jan 6, 2011 at 10:47 AM, David Steinbrunner
                      <dsteinbrunner@...> wrote:
                      > On 1/6/11 10:05 AM, "Derek Willis" <dwillis@...> wrote:
                      >
                      >>I've contacted the Clerk's office before about this issue but it's
                      >>still there, so take that for what it's worth. I should note that in
                      >>Gary Miller's case, as in Peter DeFazio of Oregon this term, the seat
                      >>is "vacant" because both men were not present on the first day of the
                      >>session to be sworn in, and thus were not sworn in at that time. So
                      >>the Clerk is technically correct, I suppose, even though DeFazio is
                      >>the duly elected member from Oregon's 4th District. But if they're not
                      >>sworn in, they can't vote, so I don't think this is truly an error.
                      >
                      > So the Clerk's site currently saying 0 vacancies is technically not
                      > correct it seems.
                      >
                      > In the subject of vacancy data, having a sworn in date or datetime would
                      > be helpful for this type of situation.
                      >
                      > Thanks again,
                      >
                      > --
                      > David Steinbrunner
                      >
                      >
                      >
                      >
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