Social voters: State reps. use Twitter, Facebook to reflect choices
by Megan Thornton
mthornton@cherokeetribune.com
March 17, 2013 12:00 AM | 2964 views | 2 2 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Rep. Scot Turner, page Camryn Mullin and Speaker of the House Rep. David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge). <br>Special to the Tribune
Rep. Scot Turner, page Camryn Mullin and Speaker of the House Rep. David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge).
Special to the Tribune
slideshow
Michael Caldwell in the House on the day the Cherokee Charter Academy students visited the state Legislature.
Michael Caldwell in the House on the day the Cherokee Charter Academy students visited the state Legislature.
slideshow
In a world of immediate news and constant communication, two local legislators are using up-to-the-minute social media updates to ensure constituents know how they vote on every bill.

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well-reasoned and informed questions about specific bills, especially those that would update seemingly strange or out-of-date laws.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

legislator.

“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.
Comments
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Honest Voter
|
March 21, 2013
Wait, Turner is accepting gifts... I guess he is just another politician. Promises go out the door once elected.
Scot Turner
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March 22, 2013
Thank you for leaving the comment so I can have an opportunity to clarify.

When I ran I promised that I would never take a penny from a lobbyist. I have kept that promise. Not one penny has been spent on me by a lobbyist in the course of my campaign or at any other time.

What I also promised (and sometimes gets lost next to the no lobbyist promise) was that I would go even a step farther and pay for the trinkets left for me on my desk by non-lobbyists. These items are not disclosed anywhere by anyone. They are often things like cupcakes and peaches and books. Sometimes they are left on my desk in the chamber before I arrive, other times they are left in my office while I am out. Again, they come from non-lobbyists, are given without my presence, and not required by law to be disclosed in the traditional sense.

So I take the effort to be transparent even farther and say that even if I do not eat the food or use the gift, I disclose that I have received them. But it doesn't end there. I assign a value for them as well. I do this because when session is over, I plan on having a poll on my website or Facebook where people can help me select a charity that I will donate an amount equal to what I have received. We are using MSRP on the items to calculate the value, and you can look for yourself at anytime by visiting my website at www.turnerforhouse.com.

If you have further questions about this, you may also contact me on my cell phone at 678 576 2644.

In your service,

Scot Turner

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