Westmoreland County, Pa., Election Results Go Out Over Social Media

Hoping to spare its website server on election night, Westmoreland County will use social media, text messages and email to broadcast election results.

by Rich Cholodofsky, Tribune-Review, Greensburg, Pa / November 5, 2013

For the first time, Westmoreland County will use social media, text messages and email to alert residents to the latest election results.

"It's a way to alleviate traffic on our website," where the county continually posts the most recent results, Election Bureau Director Jim Montini said.

Those results, which typically become available after 9:30 p.m., are usually updated about every 15 minutes.

For Tuesday's general election, the county has set up links that will be sent out to registered users via Facebook and through text messages and email when results are updated.

Users can register for the updates on the county's website.

Facebook users have to "like" the county's Facebook page to receive the alerts.

The alerts are expected to increase the speed that results are made available.

"Our server gets crushed on election night," said Dave Ridilla, the director of the county's computer information systems department.

"On election nights, between 9 p.m. and midnight, we get about 30,000 to 40,000 hits every minute," he said.

That's the same number of hits the county's website gets in a normal business week, he said.

To accommodate the increased Web traffic, the county will use two additional servers provided for free by a private Internet company, along with the firm that operates the county website.

"We've tested the heck out of it, and it should work," Ridilla said. "People were hitting refresh all the time (under the old system), and it took a long time for reports to be downloaded because of the high number of hits."

And, for the first time, mobile devices such as smartphones will be able to access the online results, Ridilla said.