A changed heart becomes a changed vote — 24 times

Last November, Michael Caldwell voted on the winning side of the referendum in Woodstock to permit the Sunday sale of six-packs and other alcoholic beverages.

Caldwell celebrated as so many people do these days: He went to his Facebook page.

Only a year earlier, when his 20 years wouldn’t have been enough to buy a drink, Caldwell had attempted to oust state Rep. Charlice Byrd, R-Woodstock, in the GOP primary. She beat him by 5 percentage points.

Perhaps the defeat still stung. For Caldwell posted a photo of the giant electronic voting board in the House chamber, indicating how lawmakers had voted on Senate Bill 10, the bill to permit local communities to decide for themselves whether to permit packaged alcohol to be sold on the Christian Sabbath. The April 12, 2011, vote was 127-44 in favor. Byrd had cast a “no” vote.

Byrd was just as sensitive. The same day, she posted her own message on Facebook, declaring that her former opponent was mistaken about her position on Sunday sales. “After the vote was recorded, I sat at my desk and gave serious consideration to my action. Before the end of the night, I went to the clerk’s desk and registered my vote. … I voted YES,” she declared.

Caldwell said he quickly apologized for the mistake. “I’d never heard of that. I didn’t know you could do that,” he said. The exchange nagged at him, and — let’s be clear — he had a larger motive. Caldwell again is challenging Byrd in this month’s primary. So he had reasons to poke around.

“There’s always the chance that the incumbent just knows something that I don’t know, and I want to make sure what’s going on across the gambit,” Caldwell said.

The effort that Caldwell put into his research — as a salesman for a small safety equipment company, he describes himself as meticulous — went far beyond your normal opposition research. A team of six friends combed through thousands of pages of House journals.

According to their count, about one-third of 180 House members have never changed a vote once it was cast. Most others “dabble in it a little bit, but no more than two or three times on average,” Caldwell said.

He recorded every changed vote by every House member over the past six years on a spreadsheet and has begun passing the document around. “I wanted to make clear that I wasn’t just going after the one that was politically convenient to me,” Caldwell said.

Many of his statistics are stories begging to be told. For instance, in the opening days of 2008, during a furious feud between Gov. Sonny Perdue and the volatile Speaker Glenn Richardson, House members lined up behind their leader and overrode six of the governor’s vetoes. But state Rep. Gene Maddox, R-Cairo, sided with the governor. He voted against each override. And then decided he’d picked the wrong side. Maddox changed his vote six times that day, by Caldwell’s count.

But Caldwell also found that Byrd, his primary opponent, had come down with voter’s remorse 24 times in the past six years, registering more changed votes than any other member of the House. Her closest rival was state Rep. Ralph Long, D-Atlanta, who recorded 13 changed votes.

Just this year, Byrd joined a unanimous vote to pass a million-dollar budget bill — and then had a change of heart. “Because there were tax increases in that budget,” she said during a phone interview Wednesday.

As for her Sunday sales vote, after pushing her red “no” button, the lawmaker said she sat down and had a conversation with herself. “I realized I should not be imposing my convictions on others,” she said.

Byrd doesn’t dispute Caldwell’s tallies. But often, she said, conversations about bills continue after the vote, raising new details that need to be considered. “Every legislator has the right, if they choose, to change their vote,” she said.

It’s true. Permission is granted by House Rule No. 136, which allows legislators to add messages to the daily journal to explain their actions. Most often, the provision is used by lawmakers who are off the floor and miss a vote but want to declare how they would have voted had they been there.

The state Senate has a similar rule, but it requires senators to declare their changed vote in writing, on official stationery and with a real, honest-to-God signature.

But there is something we haven’t told you yet. And it’s something that both Byrd and Caldwell agree on. A changed vote doesn’t matter. It doesn’t count. It makes no official difference. That “no” vote on Sunday sales that Byrd cast last year? That’s the one that counts. The vote remains 127-44.

“If it doesn’t change the tally, how disingenuous is it for any representative to be claiming that he’s changed his vote?” Caldwell asked. “If you can’t change the impact, it’s not a changed vote. In reality, [Byrd] voted no and issued a footnote that says she wishes she’d voted yes.”

But Byrd says her changed votes aren’t evidence of indecision. For her, it’s a matter of maintaining a clear conscience — regardless of inconvenient timing. “This is not about me and my convictions,” she said. “If there are any questions, everything’s transparent. It’s all out there for everyone to see.”

As long as you know where to look.

- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider

For instant updates, follow me on Twitter, or connect with me on Facebook.

79 comments Add your comment

Look before I leap...

July 11th, 2012
7:01 pm

Given the results, Byrd’s “no” vote was just as meaningless as her vote change.

But I am curious, would Byrd have “changed” her vote had the result gone the other way or would she have been more comfortable imposing her convictions on others?

Isn’t it possible if not likely she was simply giving herself some political cover once she saw the enormous margin of defeat?

The count of vote changes is meaningless unless we can see the context of the outcomes. In other words, how many times did the vote change to align with the winning side?

Centrist

July 11th, 2012
7:15 pm

@ Look – Impressive that you read through all that, and could comment on it. I gave up after the second paragraph and jumped to your comment.

Tempted to ask jgalloway my question again about the lacking coverage of last night’s debate – but ……

iRun

July 11th, 2012
7:16 pm

Nothing like plausible deniability.

Predatory Lender

July 11th, 2012
7:16 pm

Sounds like Rep. Byrd needs to sit out for a few years and give someone else a chance. Believe her husband sits or sat at one point on city counsel. Seasoned political family. She should live with her decisions, not worrying about being on the winning side on popular issues or what someone will see in an election year. Real decision makers are needed at the state level that don’t waiver or flip flop under pressure.

Look before I leap...

July 11th, 2012
7:22 pm

@centrist

I admire the kid’s tenacity.
Plus I was unaware of House Rule 136
Plus I am on a conference call with my developers in Mumbai and my ears are bleeding.

Regarding Mr Galloway’s coverage…lets just say you should consider dressing up as Don Quioxte this Halloween.

catlady

July 11th, 2012
7:23 pm

How many times did she change to the “winning” side?

Kris

July 11th, 2012
7:25 pm

Flip flop
flip flop
……..
………
There I have said it 24 times/

Vote the gop scum out..let them get chip/graves loans.

Chui

July 11th, 2012
7:27 pm

Charlice Byrd is nothing but a hypocrite two face self interest, self righteous politician of convenience. The only conscience she has is reelection and this GA legislator should not be allowed to privately go tell the Clerk to change the vote for political convenience. This a absurd rule that these politicians have cooked up. One has to wonder as to what kind of a so called democratic hog wash is this.. Of course, these conservative republican menace, with their malignant narcissism, chronic scapegoating and incorrigible grab bagging call it their states rights.

Centrist

July 11th, 2012
7:33 pm

@ Look – Bleeding ears, bleeding eyes. I enjoyed Pillars of the Earth and World Without End, but just couldn’t get through the above.

Good one about Don Quioxte. Don’t get me started about windmills and alternative energy.

Dave

July 11th, 2012
7:40 pm

So Rep. Byrd gets to vote with leadership, and then tell her constituents she’s one of the “brave” ones willing to vote for what’s right?

Sure. I’ll have my cake and eat it too please.

td

July 11th, 2012
7:51 pm

Jim,

Not sure if you saw this on you previous blog:

Get your PC fired up. I am about to give you a heads up for a weeks worth of material in the next couple weeks.

Just finished a Hart foundation poll. After taking this Democratic poll I can most confidently announce that within the next couple weeks the Obama Campaign will be trying to attack Romney for wanting to do away with Medicare and Social Security to balance the budget and give tax cuts to the rich.

Look before I leap...

July 11th, 2012
8:03 pm

@Centrist

Friend or foe of alternative energy?

hiram

July 11th, 2012
8:04 pm

td,
Do you think that “Jim” would take advice from anyone who admitted in a public forum that they’re a Glen Beck fan? I think you two may view the world through much different filters.

Michael Caldwell

July 11th, 2012
8:05 pm

As noted in the article, my opponent has publicly claimed her “changed” vote as if it were her actual vote. You can see it clearly evident in her post regarding the Sunday Sales vote where she states, “I voted YES.” To this date, rather than admit that she has been misleading her constituents, she has spun my questioning of her voting methods as “personally attacking” her on the issue. This has remained a question of a public official’s voting record- far from personal attack.

She maintained her position in a public debate. Then she maintained it via a robocall accusing me of “misleading the public.”  Then again in a public post on her website. This is the first time she has publicly admitted that her changed vote does not count.

I remain hopeful that my opponent will do just as I did when she led me to believe that my information was incorrect: apologize to her constituents and to me.

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=290421814315877&set=a.162394870451906.37050.160324697325590&type=1

td

July 11th, 2012
8:13 pm

hiram

July 11th, 2012
8:04 pm

Just trying to help Jim out for next week or the week after (whenever the poll is released) so that he can start thinking about the blogs to support the President and not have to work so hard. If he chooses to ignore my post then that is fine as well.

Look before I leap...

July 11th, 2012
8:16 pm

td doesn’t care if Jim ignores the post so much, he made the same post in two different blog topics.

hiram

July 11th, 2012
8:22 pm

td,
I’m sure that he appreciates the Glen Beck/Tea Party point of view that you and centrist bring to the forum – not to mention all of the civics lessons and interpretations of what this or that politician really said.

td

July 11th, 2012
8:23 pm

Look before I leap…

July 11th, 2012
8:16 pm

2 for Jim, one on Kyle’s and one on Jay’s so it is 4 total. Getting everyone prepared for what is coming so they can get the facts straight, while at the same time poking a fun at Jim and Jay.

double

July 11th, 2012
8:24 pm

changing your vote,Like Romney changing,changing ,changing.

td

July 11th, 2012
8:25 pm

hiram

July 11th, 2012
8:22 pm

This blog would be boring if people like Centrist and I did not come on and force you radicals to be a little more honest and not total left wing BS.

Look before I leap...

July 11th, 2012
8:32 pm

@td

Since you are batting zero today when it comes to historical facts, your prognostications are highly suspect.

td

July 11th, 2012
8:39 pm

Look before I leap…

July 11th, 2012
8:32 pm

Well I guess you are just going to have to wait and see.

hiram

July 11th, 2012
8:42 pm

td,
Come to think of it, you and centrist have truly enlightened me, and I’m sure, many other people, with all of your well reasoned and articulate commentary on issues that only the two of you seem to understand.

Look before I leap...

July 11th, 2012
8:47 pm

@td

That is one of the wonderful things about the future: Wait and see.
For the record and this has nothing to do with the Hart poll, I agree that Obama will go after Romney and tax cuts for the 1%.

hiram

July 11th, 2012
8:48 pm

@td
For example, who, besides you and centrist, knew what a terrific governor Nathan Deal was going to turn out to be? I had him pegged all wrong.

td

July 11th, 2012
8:55 pm

hiram

July 11th, 2012
8:42 pm

Or could that have been better said ” well reasoned and articulate commentary on issues that the vast majority of voters in Georgia understand”?

td

July 11th, 2012
9:01 pm

Look before I leap…

July 11th, 2012
8:47 pm

The Hart poll mainly focused on Medicare and Social security. Which candidate would better protect Medicare? Which candidate do you think will change the current systems? It was about a 25 minute survey.

They did not ask about tax cuts.

Look before I leap...

July 11th, 2012
9:04 pm

“Or could that have been better said ” well reasoned and articulate commentary on issues that the vast majority of voters in Georgia understand”?”

Careful td, you don’t want to strain a muscle patting yourself on the back like that.
And what was the Senate vote for HR 3590 on 12/24/09?

td

July 11th, 2012
9:08 pm

hiram

July 11th, 2012
8:48 pm

Shows how out of touch you are. In the latest polling data only 27% of Georgia disapproves with the way Deal is handling his job. I guess most of those 27% are on these blogs.

Look before I leap...

July 11th, 2012
9:09 pm

@td

Then why did you tie in tax cuts in your 7:51 post about the poll and your prediction?
It’s misleading the way you phrased it.

Free Woodstock Now!

July 11th, 2012
9:10 pm

Byrd and “Casino Chips” Rogers are BFF and both are about to be booted out of office!

Look before I leap...

July 11th, 2012
9:14 pm

@td

You neglect to say that Deal’s approval rating is only 48% (latest I could find was Oct/11)
About the same as Obama (today).

td

July 11th, 2012
9:16 pm

Look before I leap…

July 11th, 2012
9:09 pm

One of the questions on the poll (do not remember the exact question) was like “how do you feel about reforming Medicare and SS to balance the budget and provide tax cuts”. I personally did not like the question and thought it was sort of a trick question.

T'dubs

July 11th, 2012
9:22 pm

I hope Mr. Caldwell asks her to explain how it only takes a couple of hours to realize her vote was wrong when she had days or weeks to consider the issue beforehand.

marsh

July 11th, 2012
9:24 pm

Enlightenment means to lighten up. After all, Jesus’ 1st miracle was turning water into wine.

Kris

July 11th, 2012
9:38 pm

@Look before I leap…@td
“You neglect to say that Deal’s approval rating is only 43% (latest I could find was Oct/11)”
Ok Oct/11 ”
Was the poll taken by GOP crooks or real thieves?
When it comes to real crooks they call DIRTY DEAL (double DIP) a nascent politician about a ½ step form a corruption charge.

td

July 11th, 2012
9:43 pm

Kris

July 11th, 2012
9:38 pm

If you said 48% instead of 43% then I would say you are correct.

http://www.times-herald.com/Local/Gov–Deal-s-approval-about-50-percent

Kris

July 11th, 2012
9:49 pm

Enter your comments here

Kris

July 11th, 2012
9:52 pm

@td.

My bad, 48 was correct…But in real life A Crooked politician is a crooked politician and no amount of lipstick will change that.
No offense to Pigs.

Look before I leap...

July 11th, 2012
9:53 pm

@td

The question is asymmetrical and badly worded.

The question should read:
If you favor tax cuts and a balanced budget, would you be in favor of reforming SS and MC to do so?

The implication then would be, raising SS and MC tax rates or cutting benefits and that should be the follow-up question.

Curmudgeon

July 11th, 2012
9:58 pm

Wait a minute there! Aren’t our elected representatives supposed to vote in line with the wishes of the majority of their constituents? What’s all this nonsense about “their” conscience and “their” peace of mind, besides, they won’t (shouldn’t) last longer that one or two terms if they don’t please most of their district.

Oh, never mind – my naivete got the better of me. What was I thinking?

td

July 11th, 2012
9:59 pm

Look before I leap…

July 11th, 2012
9:53 pm

Like I said it could be my remembering of the question is off. The intent of the question was to get an overwhelming response of people to say do not touch Medicare or to get a response that appears that the public is not in favor of the Republican plans to reform the systems.

Look before I leap...

July 11th, 2012
10:01 pm

@Kris

Right now, I’d have to measure Deal’s performance in relative terms.
Is he a bigger or lesser crook than Perdue?

Since he has only been in office for a year and 2 legislative sessions, I don’t have enough data to make an informed decision on that. I’d like a little more insight into how he made his mountaintop sports store woes disappear and given his support of TSPLOST and the recent appointment of Opie Taylor to Transportation Planning chair, see if he has ties to transportation contractors.

Kris

July 11th, 2012
10:09 pm

@ td
the crooked GOP plans to reform the systems. Like the vote today to reform The Affordable health care ACT was totally a election year peeing in the wind contest. GOP who pee into the wind have brown spots on their cheep suits.

Vote the Slimy gop out.

Kris

July 11th, 2012
10:11 pm

@ Look,

Your Point….

hiram

July 11th, 2012
10:12 pm

@Kris

The only reason the US DOJ let Deal slide is, they wanted to punish Georgia’s electorate – they made their bed so, let them lay in it, so to speak – people cognisant of “the real Deal” are just considered collateral damage.

hiram

July 11th, 2012
10:25 pm

@ Look
Deal has had more scandals, compared to Sonny, at this point in his term. If you remember, one of his first acts was to break the security cameras(Ethics Office), which was an indication of his intent. Who knows what Brother Deal and Brother Ralston are doing behind closed doors. There is no doubt that this is one of the most corrupt assemblage of politicians in the state’s history.

Attack Dog

July 11th, 2012
10:27 pm

“I realized I should not be imposing my convictions on others.” ROTFLMAO!!!

Kris

July 11th, 2012
10:33 pm

Just reshuffle the deck and slap some lipstick on a pig. By the way super size da DEAL The problems never really get addressed.

td

July 11th, 2012
10:38 pm

hiram

July 11th, 2012
10:25 pm

You are incredible. You are such a partisan that you just make stuff up knowing that it is BS and with absolutely no way to back it up with a shred of evidence.

The sad part is I do not even think you could give us a realistic evaluation about your own ideology as compared to the ideology of a conservative.