The Humboldt County Election Transparency Project was established, and access to the ballots was granted. Trachtenberg wasn’t seeking to be a rebel or anarchist but merely wanted to ensure whatever electronic system was used still provided an alternate means of counting.
Humboldt hadn’t advanced to touch screen voting systems but were working off paper ballots and optical scanners produced by Diebold. Diebold have actually changed their name to Premier and their modern equipment is branded such but Humboldt were still back a generation.
As it happens, this was a fortunate thing. The Diebold system required manual paper-based ballots but did strive to speed up and simplify tallying by swiftly scanning and adding the papers. The paper ballots were preserved whereas a touch screen system has no paper trail to begin with.
Now, counting ballots can take a long time so the Transparency Project team opted to scan all the ballots and let people do recounts on their own; after all, their mission wasn’t so much to provide a recount but to ensure the public were aware that any person was free to satisfy themselves the correct outcome had been established based solely on the will of the people, and accurately so.
Trachtenberg was concerned nobody might actually read the ballots so he produced his own open source counting program developed in Python.
The software displayed each image as it counted it, with some visual gimmickry that showed the portion of the image that the software was recognising as a vote. A delay slider also catered for projecting the progress in a public hall, permitting the viewing public to count along with the software.
Imagine Trachtenberg’s surprise when he found he had 216 extra ballots than the count certified by the elections office and calculated by the Diebold equipment. Expecting to have scanned a batch of ballots twice Trachtenberg looked deeper.