Oakland County on Tuesday was set to become the second county in the United States to tap wireless technology to transmit election results more quickly after the polls close.
The analog modems on vote tabulator and absentee ballot counting board machines throughout Oakland County have been upgraded with wireless cellular modems that will allow unofficial results to be transmitted from communities to the county as soon as the polls close at 8 p.m., Oakland County Clerk Bill Bullard said Tuesday.
Previously, the memory card in each vote tabulator at each precinct had to be removed manually after election workers finished their paperwork, then taken to the township hall for the results to be uploaded and transmitted to the county, Highland Township Clerk Mary McDonell explained.
Both McDonell and White Lake Clerk Terry Lilley said it will be interesting to see how the new system works Tuesday night.
Should anything go wrong with the new system, the backup plan is to bring the cards into the township halls and upload the results as usual if there are any problems.
The wireless modems will connect to a dedicated cellular phone line to transmit the results to Oakland County, according to the county.
The county should have the results before poll workers even bring them to the township halls if all works as it should.
The analog vote tabulator machines were purchased in 2005 using federal funds provided by the state, Bullard said. Oakland County spent $344,000 on the wireless upgrade, which was performed by Nebraska-based Election Systems & Software, he said.
"Oakland County is the leader (in Michigan)," Bullard said. "There is only one other county (nationwide) doing it."
Hennepin County in Minnesota, where Minneapolis is located, already has implemented the technology, he said.
Bullard said all of the election results will be encrypted before they are transmitted and will be unencrypted at Oakland County election headquarters.
"Even if it wasn't encrypted, after 8 p.m. we want people to know the results," he said.
"The whole point of this is to let people know the results of the election as soon as possible," Bullard said. "We're convinced this will be the fastest Election Night reporting for a presidential election in Oakland County history."