October 28, 2014

Milestone Vote-Tabulation Technology from ES&S Receives U.S. Patent

OMAHA, Neb. — Imaging technology from Election Systems & Software (ES&S) that has created the most-accurate vote-reading system in the history of ballot tabulation received a U.S. Patent on September 23. 

The patent for the company’s PTRAC™ technology is a “game changer” in the election industry because the leading-edge technology provides unparalleled accuracy in reading voters’ marked ballots, according to Kathy Rogers, ES&S Vice President of Government Relations.

PTRAC, which stands for Positive Target Recognition & Alignment Compensation, and ES&S’ patented Intelligent Mark Recognition™ (IMR) work together to positively track and pinpoint target locations, accommodating for ballots inserted at irregular angles and erroneous marks to create unparalleled accuracy in determining voter intent. This accuracy improves the reliability of elections that require recounts, as well.

Because of this improved accuracy, fewer ballots need to be manually reviewed or adjudicated. This makes elections smoother, faster, less costly and with less chance for debate and controversy, Rogers said.

"Misaligned or imperfectly printed ballots and stray ballot marks or smudges are issues the election industry has faced for many years," Rogers said. "And now ES&S is leading the way to solve this challenge for election jurisdictions. No other company has anything close to this ballot-scanning and tabulation technology."

PTRAC and IMR are built into ES&S’ DS200 and DS850 ballot scanner and vote tabulator equipment. More DS200 precinct-level devices are in use in North America than all other digital scanners combined. 

Here's how it works: PTRAC algorithms read a ballot's first timing marks and compare them to the second marks, the second to the third marks, and so on. The algorithms then calculate the offset from one timing mark to the next and move the ballot images to the correct position when needed.

PTRAC then seeks out the first oval it can find and begins to capture and detect the oval perimeter. It performs a series of “hunting” steps, locating the oval exactly, and then the exact center of the oval. It then digitally removes the oval perimeter line. Finding the exact center of the oval and removing the oval outline provides the best possible means to determine that mark with extraordinary accuracy.

This differentiates ES&S's ballot tabulators from competitors' offerings, which lack this oval outline-masking technology.

Unlike less sophisticated vote scanners, the DS200 and DS850 using PTRAC and IMR are not fooled by erasures and other stray marks and is not confused by lighter or thinner marks that would be missed by more primitive threshold technology. 

“IMR and PTRAC technology on ES&S tabulators means faster election results and assurance for voters that their ballots are counted as they intended,” Rogers said.