January 14, 2016

How Clear Ballot’s Latest Product Plans to Disrupt Outdated Voting Tech

Back in 2013, we covered Boston-based election technology startup Clear Ballot, which offers a suite of tools innovating standard voting processes. Its mission? To ensure accurate, transparent, accountable polling for voters, politicians, and election officials alike.

This week, Clear Ballot announced its latest product: ClearCast.

“The purpose of an election is not to just select a candidate, but to offer legitimacy,” explained Larry Moore, Clear Ballot CEO, at the ClearCast launch event Tuesday morning. “[ClearCast] presents evidence of voter intent that is unambiguous in seconds.”


Clear Ballot's ClearCast voting unit.Seven years in the making, ClearCast streamlines voting for election administrators, using the Intel NUC mini PC to simplify casting and processing ballots. Traditional voting systems require election officials to spend an endless amount of time manually processing ballots to check for errors (like when a voter checks an oval rather than filling it, leaving the ballot obsolete to most voting systems).

ClearCast eliminates all that by scanning ballots and allowing election administrators to view a digital visualization of voter intent (meaning that checked oval will be counted within seconds). 

Thanks to Intel, it’s easy to upgrade ClearCast’s software. That’s a big differentiator, since many precincts are still operating old, antiquated systems powered by proprietary software they can’t update. (So, kind of like if you were still carrying around a first generation iPhone that was operating iOS 1.0.) What’s more, election officials are locked into those systems for 10-plus years.

“They will be archaic within a few years,” explains Clear Ballot COO, Jorden Esten. “With our system, [officials] have that continued innovation. Our software will always work with the newest Intel processors and technology.”

Esten wouldn’t share how much a system costs - a lot of factors come into play, including a state’s number of registered voters - or how much Clear Ballot has received in funding.

He did say that the startup is funded by a “collection of Boston investors,” including Silicon Valley Bank; Steve Papa, co-founder and former CEO of Endeca; Bill Solomon, former president, CEO, and chairman of Austin Industries; Bob White, founding partner of Bain Capital and Harvard Business School faculty member; and Michael Porter, Harvard Business School professor and economist, researcher, and author.


The presidential election may be looming ahead, but you won’t be casting your vote using a ClearCast system here in Massachusetts. Voting systems undergo an extensive, state-specific certification process. Clear Ballot aims to be certified in 15 to 20 states by early 2017. Thereafter, it’ll begin selling systems to jurisdictions within those states. Today you can find Clear Ballot in Oregon - where 40 percent of the state runs elections using the system, according to Esten - and Florida.

While it works to certify its systems across the country, Clear Ballot plans to ramp up hiring here in Boston - specifically for product developers and engineers. Key traits of Clear Ballot employees? Intellectual curiosity and a passion for the disrupt the status quo.

“[At Clear Ballot,] there’s this electricity about changing an industry, about drastically improving something that matters to so many people across the country,” Esten says. “It’s a tough problem we’re trying to solve. We have a great group going after it.”


Kaite Rosa is Director of Content & Marketing at VentureFizz. Follow her on Twitter @KaiteRosa.

Photos via Clear Ballot and Kaite Rosa.