Detroit Free Press
  Tuesday, November 30, 2010

  Macomb County puts historical election journals online

Michael Grix, 29, of Chesterfield Township, election specialist for Macomb County, moves election journals on Wednesday. (ERIC SEALS/Detroit Free Press)

Michael Grix, 29, of Chesterfield Township, election
specialist for Macomb County, moves election journals
on Wednesday.  
(ERIC SEALS/Detroit Free Press)

Free Press Staff Writer

Macomb County voters overwhelmingly said no to a $6,000 loan to build a courthouse and jail after a two-day election in November 1839.

Even the Orange Township voters.

Orange Township? Yep. That appears to be what is now Eastpointe, Roseville and St. Clair Shores.

These historical tidbits -- written in flowing cursive or typed neatly and tucked into heavy, bound election journals -- will become easily accessible to the public for free on the county's Web site, possibly by the end of the year.

Macomb may be the first county in the state to put all of its election result journals online. It has other online offerings, such as death records, campaign finance reports and county commissioner minutes that date to 1924.

"What better way to look up the county's history but in the elections where the people spoke?" said Carmella Sabaugh, county clerk/register of deeds.

She said the timing of the project is fitting. The county will have a new government Jan. 1 overseen by an executive and a board of commissioners that is half the size of the current 26-member board.

Commissioners approved up to $3,740 last week for a company to scan the election journals from 1838 to 1997. Records from 1998 to the present are already available online.

The handwritten records from 1838 to about 1909 will be indexed by year. Typed records starting about 1910 will be text searchable, said Todd Schmitz, chief deputy clerk.

The oldest hardcover journals will be returned to the county after the pages are scanned. So will the more than 50 modern, flexible-cover journals with pages that look like they were printed on a dot-matrix printer.

Officials said the clerk is required by law to keep the journals, which are stored on shelves in the cool, cinder-block basement of the Circuit Court in Mt. Clemens.

Corwin D. Smidt, assistant professor of political science at Michigan State University, said election records can provide context for historians, researchers and residents on why certain measures passed or laws are on the books.

"It's helpful for evaluating history," he said. "If nothing else, you can see how your neighbors voted."

Contact Christina Hall: 586-826-7265 or