Voting counts: How U-M grad students answered the question ‘Did you get my ballot?’

By | October 30, 2020
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Kelly Richter, the clerk’s office administrative assistant in Oxford Township, assists a resident at the public counter. (Eric Bronson/Michigan Photography)

This election year in Michigan has seen a huge increase in absentee ballot requests. As a result, clerk’s offices are spending a lot of time answering phone calls from voters checking on the status of their ballot. School of Information graduate students Lauren Trimble, Joshua Tooker, and Michael Payne worked this summer on a pilot project to streamline the process at four municipalities in the state: Oxford Township, Ferndale, Bay City and Northville Township.

They interviewed some of the 1,500 township and city clerks across Michigan and worked with municipal IT departments to create and pilot an automated email notification system that notifies voters about the status of their ballot.

Jordan Smellie, elections specialist for the City of Ferndale, says the automated email notifications have been well-received there. “The U-M students really wanted this to serve our voters, and it was neat to be reminded that folks in my office are not the only ones who are really dedicated and excited about advancing democracy and making it work better in the 21st century.”