For your convenience, our most common questions are answered right here.
Q: What is the Elections Transparency Project and why is it necessary?
Throughout the United States the ability to review whether the votes cast by a voter are accurately counted are either non-existent or barely exist. Many states and counties have adopted DRE ( direct record /touch screen) electronic voting equipment that registers and count the votes internally and have no verifiable external means of reviewing or counting the ballots should a dispute arise. Those states with paper ballots that could be audited, usually don’t, and those that do, have minimal requirements usually (in the case of California a 1% requirement).
The Elections Transparency Project (ETP) allows for a 100% audit, that can be done by any citizen. It by-passes the proprietary vote counting software that many citizens have become suspicious of. It offers exposure of any attempt to hack an election remotely, during sleepovers, or with hidden code. It also offers a means to detect faulty election results made by simple human error.
The ETP is essentially the creation of digital images of each ballot cast by use of an off the shelf office scanner. The scanner creates color digital images (jpeg files) of each ballot as it is scanned, and then stores them on a dedicated hard drive.
The images are pre-imprinted with a unique number prior to scanning so that should a citizen request to see a particular ballot, it can then be retrieved.
The ballots can be counted by hand, at home by any citizen. The images are essentially color digital photographs of the ballots and easily lend themselves to hand tallying.
From its conception the ETP had hoped to encourage the creation of open source software that would be capable of counting the votes. Ideally there would be multiple programs created, so that there would be double checks available for auditing the ballots.
We were extremely fortunate to have enlisted the participation of a talented software programmer in the project, Mitch Trachtenberg. Mitch has developed ( and continues to improve) a open source program for reviewing the ballots, and counting the votes cast. The program is called TEVS and is available online at his website —http://democracycounts.blogspot.com/—-available to download for free.
Q: What hardware is necessary to conduct the Elections Transparency Project?
An off the shelf optical scanner to scan the ballots and a dedicated hard-drive /server on which to store the images
Q: What specific hardware was utilized by the ETP?
We chose a Fujitsu 5900c scanner. There were several others available that were comparable in function and price, Cannon, Panasonic, Kodak, and Belle and Howell all had scanners in this class. We had originally been looking at a Kodak i660. One of the main reasons we went with the Fujitsu was that it had the best compatability ratings with the SANE open source code drivers developed for scanners. There is more on SANE at their website: http://www.sane-project.org/intro.html
It has been an aim of ours to use open source code whenever possible for all aspects of the project, including scanning operations.
Besides the open source code compatibility issue, the Fujitsu was able to address other concerns we had to consider. It could handle paper sizes as large as the gubernatorial race we had a few years back (9inches by 18 inches), with candidates on both sides of the ballot. The 5900c is rated up to 100,000 documents a day, double sided and in color. It has an endorsement capability—so that each ballot is given a unique number as it is being fed into the scanner –so that if a citizen wants to see a specific ballot after viewing the images, we will be able to find that ballot. It also has sensors that detect any feed problems and stop the machine before a document gets munched.
The operating system is Linux and the computer is not networked with any other computers.
Q: How long did it take to scan the ballots?
We were able to scan approximately 800 to 1000 ballots an hour initially.
We have increased our scanning to about 1200 ballots (single page,double sided) per hour through the use of compression.
Q: How many people were involved in the scanning process?
Scanning was done by crew consisting of at least two people. Three people were often useful if there were numerous small batches of ballots. The time involved in filling out the proper paper work often took longer than the time required to feed ballots through the scanner. The paper work was to account for chain of custody as well as logging each batch run of ballots by precinct, time, imprint sequences, etc.
The people who did this work were all volunteers originally with the help of county election staff on occasion. In some later elections, when grant money was available, scanning personnel received compensation (comparable to county part time help). County staff both brought and returned the ballot batches from the secured storage area.
Q: I’m interested in donating to the Elections Transparency Project. How can send you a donation?
You can make your checks payable to the “Elections Transparency Project”.
Our tax identification number is 320402816
Our mailing address is PO Box 695 Loleta, CA 95551
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