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Macomb County

The Macomb Daily

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Sabaugh provides customized election returns

By Chad Selweski

Macomb County Clerk Carmella Sabaugh broke down another barrier on primary election night, offering voters customized election results that periodically provided them updates on the races they were following by way of text message or email alert.

Email and text notification began on Tuesday night when 50 percent of the precincts reported, and continued whenever there was a lead change. A final electronic alert went out after the last precinct reported. Sign-up for the service was offered on Sabaugh’s website.

Officials monitoring the new system report that the No. 1 interest of the “personalized election results” users was the Detroit Institute of Arts tax proposal. No. 2 was the county sheriff’s race. The alerts were provided for as many races and proposals as requested, from U.S. Senate to precinct delegate.

Though it was not publicized ahead of time, 425 election-watchers signed up for the the “Notify Me” process. Some 1,560 text messages and 385 emails were sent by Sabaugh’s staff between 8 p.m. and midnight.

“Most voters just want to know if the candidates they voted for won, and our new personalized election results service makes it easy to find out,” Sabaugh said.

The customized process proved especially useful to those following the DIA millage. Alerts were sent out with 7 percent reporting because the “leader” had changed from No to Yes. It was still Yes when the system alerted users that the race had cleared 50 percent. But, with 61% of precincts reporting, a new alert indicated the leader shifted back to No. Finally, at 79 percent reporting, a new alert showed Yes leading again, until it went to 100 percent with a 1 percentage point margin of passage.

The system is believed to be another first-in-the-nation moment for Sabaugh, who has established many layers of high-tech equipment to improve the efficiency of her office in the face of repeated budget cuts.

Sabaugh used Google Maps technology to parse the addresses and has led the county in implementing Google Apps for Government.

To prevent lag time, the system was distributed across four computer servers in four geographically different regions -- Seattle, Kansas City, Pittsburgh, and Washington D.C.

Sabaugh’s office is already planning an upgrade in time for the November general election, according to Deputy Clerk Todd Schmitz.

The cost of running the system is 1 cent per text message sent, or 10,000 texts for $100.

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