Rochester Hills wins national award for innovation on Election Day

By: Mary Beth Almond | Rochester Post | Published March 13, 2019

ROCHESTER HILLS — In the hopes of freeing up clogged phone lines on Election Day, the city of Rochester Hills developed and launched its online Election Day Precinct Support Portal last November.

Election workers were trained on the new technology the day before the Nov. 6 election, and the city immediately put the portal to use.

It worked, according to Rochester Hills City Clerk Tina Barton.

“It saved us right around 100 phone calls on Election Day,” she said.

As a result, the U.S Election Assistance Commission recently named Rochester Hills the winner of the Clearie Award for Outstanding Innovations in Elections.

The annual Clearie Awards, according to the commission, recognize best practices in election administration and highlight exemplary models that can serve as examples to other officials and jurisdictions.

Commission Chairman Thomas Hicks said election officials are some of the greatest civic leaders the nation has to offer.

“They are the stewards of the bedrock of our democracy who often implement innovative solutions with limited budgets and zero margin for error,” he said in a statement.

The annual Clearie Awards, Hicks said, give the commission an opportunity to recognize the vital contributions of election officials on a national stage and highlight best practices within the field of election administration.

“Each recipient of this award represents the very best of what it means to be an election administrator,” he said in a statement. “We at the EAC applaud them for their dedication and hope their work can serve as an example to others.”    

A collaboration between the Rochester Hills City Clerk’s Office and the city’s Management Information Systems staff, the city’s Election Day Precinct Support Portal was created in response to a problem the city encountered during previous elections.

“We were having trouble on Election Day with only having a few phone lines and getting numerous phone calls that would bounce off of each other, so people weren’t able to get through and the precincts couldn’t get through,” Barton explained.

The portal allowed precinct workers to submit requests or questions via a smartphone or tablet using a simple Google form in order to reduce phone calls. The submissions were then fed into a shared Google sheet in real time and monitored by phone staff and runners moving between precincts. Support calls were ranked by priority, and once calls were resolved, they  were dropped to the bottom of the Google sheet, allowing the city to provide Election Day support across 32 precincts with just three staff members, according to Barton.

The portal, she said, also generated useful data — including requests per precinct, individual responder rates and a breakdown of the different assigned priority levels.

Receiving the award is a real honor for Barton and the city.

“Only about 10 of these are given out per year, and the majority of the time, these type of awards go to secretary of state’s offices or to county offices — they don’t typically go to local communities — so it’s a real honor that we were chosen,” she said.