While email has become sophisticated in Washington, some politicians beyond the Beltway are still a little loose with it.
Dozens of state legislators across the country use personal email accounts in addition to or instead of their government-issued addresses when conducting state business.
And the email addresses themselves are sometimes a little goofy.
A search of state legislator contact information found the following addresses: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.
Some lawmakers said they prefer the personal addresses because it makes their communication with constituents feel more personal and private.
New Hampshire state Rep. Lynne Ober communicates with her constituents from email@example.com. She enjoys skiing, but that’s not why she uses the address. Instead, she said it helps constituents feel secure that they can email her confidentially.
“I do it because they feel more comfortable,” she said.
Ober, a Republican in her fourth term, said she opened the skibear address years ago when she was often moving with her husband, who was serving in the military. She used it as a placeholder account to forward to her other email accounts that she changed based on her service provider.
“I’ve just had it for years,” she said. “It’s happy and I’m generally a happy person.”
Alabama state Rep. Pebblin Warren (D) uses firstname.lastname@example.org when emailing constituents. She said it is easier for her because she does not use her legislative address very often and her personal inbox is something she sees every day.
Her address name comes from her former poodle, which she named after Tiger Woods.
“Tiger was the first dog I ever owned,” she said. “I hold it dear to my heart.”
Still, it can cause problems. Warren said she sometimes gets a flood of messages when a controversial issue is being considered in the Alabama Legislature.
At least 11 states allow members of the legislature to post personal email addresses on government websites.
Brent Cranfield, director and technology coordinator for the Georgia House of Representatives, said his state automatically creates a house.ga.gov email account as soon as its legislative members are sworn in but does not require they use it.
“We leave it up to the members whether to publish a personal email or not,” he said.
It’s a practice that has long since gone by the wayside in Washington, D.C. Email first came to the U.S. House in the early 1980s, according to the Office of the House Historian. External email followed later with the creation of the Constituent Electronic Mail System in 1993.
The idea of elected officials using personal email accounts for government business can also raise transparency issues.
In 2007, the George W. Bush administration was criticized when it was revealed government officials had used a private Internet domain for various communications. Those emails could not be retrieved during an investigation into the firing of eight U.S. attorneys.
Members of Congress also typically receive too much mail for a private email service to handle.
Ken Ward, CEO of Fireside21 and an adviser on constituent relations, said the volume of electronic traffic in and out of Congressional offices today would overwhelm personal email accounts.
In addition, he noted that unusual email addresses can get caught in spam filters.
“With stand-alone personal email accounts, some wires can get crossed and filters might say, ‘This is not coming from a verified sender,’” Ward said.
With more and more people turning to electronic communication, Ward said, state lawmakers might eventually have to make changes to their online practices.
“State officials will have to get more sophisticated,” he said.
Nonetheless, Warren said she has no plans to change her email address.
“Between my legislative inbox, my personal inbox and my job inbox, I just don’t want any more,” she said.