Politics & Elections

RI Rank release their 2021 RI General Assembly Social Media Rankings

If your elected official is at or near the bottom of the list, ask yourself – Have I ever met my Representative or Senator? What does he or she do to earn my vote? Aside from general political party values (which may mean less in Rhode Island than elsewhere) do I know where my Representative or Senator stands on the issues that are important to me?
Photo for RI Rank release their 2021 RI General Assembly Social Media Rankings

Published on May 3, 2021
By Steve Ahlquist

Our elected officials are not just people we choose to represent us – They are the public’s partners in determining policy and navigating the important issues of the day. Elections, which happen every two, four or six years, should not be the only time we engage meaningfully with our elected officials, and our engagement should certainly be more than a tally of up or down votes about the job they’ve done.

This is why it is so important that our legislators in the General Assembly work hard to communicate with their constituents, and as we enter the third decade of the 21st Century, the way most of us communicate is through social media.

RI Rank has done the work of figuring out which of our elected General Assembly members are putting in the effort to be truly collaborative with their communities, and which ones don’t.

The 2021 RI General Assembly Social Media Rankings is a handy guide to figuring out how much light our elected officials are shining on their actions, and which ones prefer to operate in the shadows.

There may be a number of reasons why a State Senator or Representative might choose not to engage with their communities via social media. We have a part-time legislature, and most of them have other jobs, so time may be an issue. But the darker reason – that communication with the public about your actions as an elected official may subject a legislator to uncomfortable discussions about their views – is also possible.

As RI Rank points out, when presenting information about those legislators that maintain an active website, “Shockingly, nearly half of all members of the General Assembly have no website, drastically reducing small donations from average Rhode Islanders. Unsurprisingly, this correlated with members who a) rarely have election opponents and b) are not funded by small donations. We were equally surprised to find so many lawmaker websites were noticeably outdated, often talking up bills and even coming elections that are years past. Again, the majority of younger legislators exceeded the website metric with mobile-ready sites (which will be part of the ranking criteria next year) that presented information where voters expect to see it.”

It is so much easier to be a legislator that answers to a small number of large donors, that answers to lobbyists and special interest groups, than it is to be a legislator that truly collaborates with the community and is open and honest about their views, even when those views might put you in political jeopardy.

The Washington Post proclaims that “Democracy Dies in Darkness.” Shining a light on this darkness is not just the job of the free press, but in this time when local newspapers are dwindling or taking alarming and extreme right-wing turns, its also important that our elected officials turn their own lights on, and let us see who they are and who exactly it is that fight for.

The top Senators in this year’s ranking are Senators Sam Bell, Jeanine Calkin and Alana DiMario, all scoring excellent, with Bell and Calkin far exceeding their peers. Over in the House, Representatives Marcia Ranglin-Vassell and David Morales lead the pack with “excellent” rankings. I’m not going to list the legislators at the bottom of the rankings – there are five Senators and five Representatives with no social media presence at all – you can see for yourself here.

If your elected official is at or near the bottom of the list, ask yourself – Have I ever met my Representative or Senator? What does he or she do to earn my vote? Aside from general political party values (which may mean less in Rhode Island than elsewhere) do I know where my Representative or Senator stands on the issues that are important to me?

Reach out. Engage. Ask the tough questions, and demand that your elected officials represent you.

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