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University of Michigan School of Information


UMSI collaboration with the Ann Arbor City Clerk’s Office receives Clearinghouse Award

Tuesday, 01/28/2020

The Line Tracking Project, a partnership between the Ann Arbor City Clerk’s Office and three UMSI students, has won one of six Clearinghouse “Clearie” Awards for Outstanding Innovations in Election Administration awarded by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) this year.

Shaelyn Albrecht
Undergraduate student Shaelyn Albrecht was one of three UMSI fellows who worked together with the Ann Arbor City Clerk to develop the award-winning web application.

The EAC established the “Clearie” Awards in 2016 to recognize outstanding innovations in elections, and best practices in accessibility and recruiting, training and retaining election workers.

The project used several years of student research on voter wait times to develop a new public website that allows voters to check wait times at their local polling place and access additional tools to facilitate the voting process. With record-high voter turnout estimated for the 2020 elections, the Line Tracking Project may be a critical resource for both citizens and city staff in the coming year.

During the 2016 elections, voters at Ann Arbor precincts, particularly those on U-M’s campus, experienced exceptionally long lines with some wait times as long as two hours. The City Clerk’s office found itself seeking a solution that would address the lines and help the office better understand voter turnout behavior.

In the summer of 2018, as part of UMSI’s Citizen Interaction Design fellowship program, BSI junior fellow Shaelyn Albrecht and MSI fellow Ethan Grier conducted interviews and distributed surveys to poll workers before submitting their proposed solution. Following the students’ recommendations, City Clerk Jacqueline Beaudry worked with the city’s IT department to develop a simple web application useable by city staff or election inspectors to report Election Day line counts in real-time using a calculator-style tool to input counts.

The tool was put to the test by poll workers with much success, and the following summer MSI fellow Jiahui Zhou helped to make the app available to the public. Now, voters can report and check line times themselves on the city’s website. When active on election days, the checker features a photo, map link, line count and projected wait time for each polling location.

 “It was truly a pleasure to work with the three students from UMSI,” says Beaudry. I think I can speak for all involved from City Hall, we were very impressed with the innovation and professional work coming from the student fellows.”

- UMSI News Service