Digital Ballot Images

Publish DIGITAL Ballot Images Online as Open Data


One relatively simple way to make voting systems more transparent is to publish digital ballot images online as open public data. Voters, election administrators, government officials, and journalists are demanding that next-generation voting machines have this feature. 

The achievements of several NGOs and companies highlight the feasibility of this process. Wisconsin Grassroots Network has demonstrated that ballot images from optical scanners can be projected in a slideshow for public audits, and Humboldt County Election Transparency Project developed software for independent tabulation of any ballot style. Both projects use open-source code. Clear Ballot and Galois have built election systems that allow for ballot image publishing and the latter includes an anonymizer tool to protect voter secrecy.

Digital ballot images do not override the need for paper, counted manually. However, if published with open-source tabulation tools, it is possible that Digital Ballot Transparency can help assure that election results are legitimate and that close races have been resolved accurately (parallel to any mandatory audit or hand recount).

Given the requirements for certifying voting machines, major changes to system design are unlikely before the next procurement cycle. 

The strength of Ballot Transparency is that it can be built with the data from some widely used voting machines, adding an extra layer of fraud deterrence.

A public archive of ballot images would have several advantages over current systems:

  • Deterrence: An additional layer of security against election fraud.
  • Accuracy: More detail to resolve close elections.
  • Trust: Increased public confidence in the institution of voting.
  • Accountability: Open and responsive government.


Digital ballot image publishing represents a new frontier in election transparency and administration. National Election Defense Coalition aims to research and establish best practices for ballot image publishing, with a common data format and digital toolkit that can be used in jurisdictions across America. 

Digital Ballot Transparency requires technical safeguards to guarantee image provenance and voter anonymity. These challenges are being addressed by the voting technology sector, but further research is needed.