Column: Call for Election Numbers Help

"... we're gonna believe in each other ..."

Editor’s note: This column includes a request for help in logging early election results straight from polling locations after the polls close at 8 p.m. on Tuesday. If you’d like to help – by gaining editing access to a shared spreadsheet, or by texting, Tweeting, or calling in results to us – shoot us an email:

The general election on Tuesday, Nov. 2 comes after eight games have been played on a 12-game schedule for the University of Michigan football team. The guys in the winged helmets are currently sitting at 5-3, which is better than the 2-7 record they’d achieved at the same point during their 2008 campaign.

election tape report

The top end of a voting machine tape from Ward 1, Precinct 5 from the Aug. 3, 2010 primary.

For me, the 2008 general election – and because I am quick to generalize, all elections – will always be linked to UM football. They’re linked in the form of Jonas Mouton, a linebacker I met in the course of my election day travels in 2008. Mouton was nearly denied the franchise when he tried to vote at the Pioneer High School precinct, but was finally able to cast his ballot.

Elections are, of course, not one bit like a football game, let alone a football season – that’s purely a writerly ploy to set up some kind of thematic backdrop against which I can ask readers a favor: We’re asking for help in collecting precinct-level election results on Tuesday night.

Otherwise put, on Tuesday evening, we’d like to ask that you play for The Chronicle’s team. To quote legendary UM coach Bo Schembechler, when we collect the precinct level results, “we’re gonna play together as a team. We’re gonna believe in each other, we’re not gonna criticize each other, we’re not gonna talk about each other, we’re gonna encourage each other.”

Veteran consumers of local online information know that election results for all the precincts in Washtenaw County will eventually be available on the county clerk’s website. As results are filed with the clerk, election staff upload them incrementally. With polls closing at 8 p.m., and poll closing procedures taking roughly 30-60 minutes to complete, the first results typically begin to appear on the clerk’s website towards 10 p.m. and are generally uploaded for the entire county sometime in the early morning hours, if not sooner. That’s pretty quick, actually.

But it’s not Denard Robinson quick.

So The Chronicle is making publicly accessible a Google spreadsheet with city of Ann Arbor election results that will contain data that’s available directly from the precinct polling places. Results should start to trickle into that spreadsheet around 8:30 p.m. and could be completed by 9 p.m. or so.

We experimented with this approach back during the Aug. 3 primary – a kind of non-conference game warm up – and what we learned is that it would be helpful to have more people on our team. If you’d like to help – by gaining editing access to the spreadsheet, or by texting, Tweeting, or calling in results to us – shoot us an email:

For readers who are willing to play on our team, but are daunted because they don’t know how to run any of our plays, I’ve put together a short election eve playbook.

Paper Tape

The optical scanning voting machines generate a paper tape with all the tabulated results from the paper ballots it scanned during the day. It’s similar in appearance to a cash-register receipt. This is what you’re waiting for.

Note that the poll workers generate the paper tape from the voting machines as one of the later steps in the regimented process for closing down the polling location. They generate two tapes as a part of their prescribed procedure, and then generate an additional tape, which they’ll affix to the wall outside the entrance to the polling place for public viewing. If a poll worker drops one of the paper tapes, do not yell “FUMBLE!” and start a scrum for it. That’s a personal foul and is penalized from the spot of the infraction with 15 yards and a loss of down.


Be respectful of the fact that poll workers have already worked a long and tedious day. Don’t crowd them – that’s a 5-yard penalty for being off-sides. If they ask why you’re there, tell them, and ask where you can park yourself so that you are out of their way. Don’t try to chit chat with them. You’re not allowed to help them. Just sit on the bench and be patient.

Preferred Data

The ballot contains over a hundred different data points. If you volunteer to play on The Chronicle’s team, are we really expecting you to report every piece of data on the paper tape? No. Some of you will choose to do that. Others will choose to report just some of the races – those you have time for, or those you think are the most interesting. We’re not going to yell at you and make you do punishment push-ups for not reporting exhaustively. As Bo said, “we’re not gonna criticize each other, we’re not gonna talk about each other, we’re gonna encourage each other.”

Preferred Data Entry Method

It’s less work for The Chronicle if you opt to accept access to the spreadsheet and enter the results directly into the sheet. But some of you might want to just head over to the polls and send us a text message or an email with a result or two. That’s fine – a touchdown drive is sometimes made up of 3- and 4-yard runs.

Preferred Precinct

The most natural precinct to choose would be your usual voting location. If we hear from several people who are covering a particular precinct, though, we might suggest a different one that’s still close to your neighborhood. But if multiple people wind up collecting results from the tape at a single polling location, guess what we’d like you to do?

That’s right. Work together to double- or triple-team the paper tape. That way it’ll go faster for everyone.

Go team.

One Comment

  1. November 2, 2010 at 7:58 pm | permalink

    Iacta alea est. The polls are now closed.