State Reps. Michael Caldwell (R-Woodstock) and Scot Turner (R-Holly Springs), both in their first term, have posted their respective votes as well as their reasoning for every vote cast on both Twitter and Facebook during this year’s legislative session.
While tweets can only contain up to 140 characters, both said the practice has led to further discussion about the goings on at the state Capitol.
“One of the things I ran on is providing a new level of accountability to public service,” Turner said. “And now the feedback from Facebook and Twitter is tremendous.”
Turner said he’s gotten well-reasoned and informed questions about specific bills, especially those that would update seemingly strange or out-of-date laws.
“It gives me the opportunity to explain that we’re tweaking it to make it better, more friendly to consumers, voters and every-day citizens,” Turner said.
Turner, who can be followed at @Scot23, said he was inspired by U.S. Rep. Justin Amash (R-Michigan) (@repjustinamash) who tweeted his own votes and decided to make it a campaign promise.
“It gives people immediate access,” Turner said. “Constituents know how I’m voting and why I’m voting.”
Turner said some of the more tenured members of the Georgia General Assembly are amazed the possibility is out there.
“Things move pretty quickly (in session,) but what’s nice about Twitter is it’s 140 characters. I can write a very quick message to the world and everyone can see it … We can still be effective and pay attention to what’s going on around us,” Turner said.
All votes are recorded and posted on the Georgia General Assembly’s website throughout the session, but the elected officials said they both turn to Twitter to give a reason why they voted the way they did for public knowledge.
Caldwell, who can be followed @michaelwcaldwell, said it’s his goal to be as transparent as possible in as many venues as possible.
“It’s a service I believe everybody should be offering,” he said.
He added that keeping his own record has made him a better
“I know that I’m putting a record out that can be tracked, followed and read for all time to come,” he said.
Turner said he typically posts every vote to Facebook as they happen, but on days when there are 10 or more votes he will post them at the end of sessions.
“There were 40 plus votes on Crossover Day,” Turner said. “I didn’t think people would want to see 40 plus posts from me on that day.”
Tori Wester, Caldwell’s legislative aide and former campaign worker for Turner, said the updates are never part of her duties.
“They always have laptops with them to post,” she said. “I think it has helped them to be respected as freshman legislators.”
Since Caldwell and Turner started the trend, both State Reps. Charles Gregory (R-Kennesaw) and John Pezold (R-Fortson) have followed suit.
Wester said she hopes more legislators are open to the idea.
“I think if they have the time to do it, it would definitely behoove them to,” Wester said. “It’s just whether they want to put in the extra mile, because it is more work.”
Both legislators say using social media is a personal choice, but would not oppose other elected officials jumping on the bandwagon.
“For me personally, just about giving voter every tool they can to hold me accountable to what I said I would do,” Turner said. “That’s why I do it, if other folks see value in that that are legislators then that would be great.”
Caldwell said he hopes to make sure his constituents know he’s going to stay connected, no matter where he’s going or what he’s doing.
“Accountability can’t come without accessibility,” he said.
For those who don’t use social media, both of the legislators have put a legislative tracker on their site. Turner’s website also includes a gift tracker, which tallies all gifts — all the way down to cupcakes and erasers — from non-lobbying organizations, as he refuses lobbyist gifts. Caldwell’s site also has a link to all of his financial disclosures.
The two, along with the rest of the Cherokee County Delegation, will head into the last five days of this year’s legislative session this week.