About Open Source Election Technology

Has a nice sound, doesn’t it?  But it’s more than just a sound bite.  Its real stuff people can see, touch, and try.  And here is why.

The OSET Institute is about researching, developing, and making innovative election software public technology (i.e., publicly available open source technology subject to an OSI-accredited license) in order to increase verification, accuracy, security, and transparency (in process), and ensure that ballots are counted as cast. 

This public benefit work is focused on increasing integrity in elections, while lowering costs, and improving usability. If the work is effective, it should ease participation and make the use of the technology easy, convenient, even delightful for administrators and voters alike.

The OSET Institute was established in November 2006 by a couple of concerned technologists in the Silicon Valley as a California non-profit corporation dedicated to the public benefit.  Originally, and until 2013 the organization was known legally as the Open Source Digital Voting (“OSDV”) Foundation and its name evolved in October 2013 following the IRS final determination of its tax-exempt status after a record-breaking six (6) year prosecution of our status application.  In late 2015, "Foundation" became "Institute" to reflect the reality that the OSET Institute is focused on education, research, and development of election technology innovation (and actually, it is not a grant making organization.)  Today, the OSET Institute is 60 people strong. The name “OSET” (pronouncedOh-Set”) encapsulates the work of the Institute: “Open Source Election Technology.” You can learn some more about our history here.

About Our Mission

The mission of the OSET Institute, a nonpartisan, nonprofit election technology research, development, and education organization, is to increase confidence in elections and their outcomes in order to preserve the operational continuity of democracy -- ultimately worldwide -- and because everyone deserves a better voting experience.  The Institute’s goal is to help defend democracy worldwide by ensuring the integrity, security, and usability of election administration technology. These principles guide our work.

The result, ElectOS, a Framework of public election technology available for any jurisdiction to adopt, adapt, and deploy for elections whether done in-house or by an outside commercial systems integration organization ( however, not the OSET Institute).  

We use the principles of open source development, user-centered design, and security-centric systems engineering in a meritocratic environment at the TrustTheVote Project.  

This is an imperative effort to ensure integrity and increase confidence in our public elections, and reduce, if not eliminate the troubles with voting machinery, while helping eliminate unfortunate terms like "rigged," "tampered," "hacked," or "illegitimate" from the vernacular of democracy administration.

Here’s the thing: The means by which we cast and count our ballots is tantamount to "critical democracy infrastructure" and as such cannot be a black box, but rather a glass box.  Success of this project can increase confidence in elections and their outcomes, for America at least, and for any democracy, worldwide over time.

About Our Organization

The OSET Institute is a California non-profit corporation exempt from Federal income taxation under IRC Section 501(c)(3).  A Board of Directors governs the nonprofit organization.

Board of Directors

Strategic Board Advisors

  • Chris Barr, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

  • Jake Braun, CEO, Cambridge Global Advisors

  • Deborah Bryant, Redhat

  • Aneesh Chopra, Former U.S. CTO; NavHealth

  • William P. Crowell, Former Dep. Dir. NSA; Alsop Louie Partners

  • Dr. Rich DeMillo, Georgia-Tech

  • Frank DiGiamarinno, Accelerated Ventures

  • Joseph Hall, CTO, Center for Democracy and Technology

  • Phil Keisling, Former Oregon State Secretary

  • Roger McNamee, Elevation Partners; Author, “Zucked: The Education of an Unlikely Activist

  • Doug Maughan, DHS Cybersecurity Directorate

  • Lenny Mendonca, Former McKinsey & Co., Half Moon Bay Brewing Company

  • Norm Ornstein, American Enterprise Institute

  • Deepak Puri, Former VMWare; Co-Founder, Democracy Labs

  • Simon Rosenberg, NDN.org

  • Barbara Simons, Former IBM; Verified Voting Foundation

  • Stephanie Singer, Former City Commissioner, Philadelphia, PA; Free & Fair

  • Heather Smith, Rock The Vote

  • Bryan Sivak, Former CTO, DHHS

  • Theresa Swinehart, ICANN

  • Joe Trippi, Trippi & Associates

  • David R.R. Webber, Horizon Industries, Ltd. Manchester, England U.K.

A Stakeholder community comprised of a number of different constituent categories guides our work.  The majority of stakeholders are state and local elections officials—those who stand to directly benefit from the results of our work.  

We utilize a process equivalent to that of the IETF (Internet Engineering Task Force) called “Request for Comments” (or “RFC”).  We maintain an RFC Library online and this serves as our primary communications means with our stakeholders. Here is an example RFC.  Stakeholders (or anyone) can read, review, and comment on our design work and help us refine and tune it to their exacting specifications.

More information can be found in our Public Documents section of this site.  And more information is available on our Brief History section and in our Public Relations section.