Presidency Hinges on Chad

ByABC News
November 12, 2000, 2:50 PM

Nov. 14 -- Who will be the next president of the United States? Chad may decide.

What is chad? It is the tiny scored portion of a paper ballot that voters punch out using a small stylus to indicate their preference for a candidate. If a chad is punched completely out of the card, counting machines register each hole as a vote. But sometimes the tiny pieces of paper stay partially or completely stuck to the ballots which may make it impossible for machines to read them.

Hence, the controversial recount of thousands of ballots in several Florida counties that could decide who wins the presidential election.

There are a half dozen different varieties of chad, including pregnant chads, dimpled chads, tri chads, swinging door chads and, of course, hanging door chads.

A hanging door chad, for example, has one corner still attached to the ballot. A dimpled chad is indented, but still fully attached.

Chads were punched and partially punched all across the nation on Election Day, as several states use the punch-card voting system. But Floridian chads are particularly pertinent as election officials prepare to recount by hand, one-by-one, the more than 400,000 ballots cast in Palm Beach County.

Much Ado About Counting

That manual recount is set to begin Monday, but the chad controversy reared its head on Saturday as the county canvassing board tallied votes from four sample Palm Beach County precincts.

Florida election statutes state that, in a recount, the canvassing boars should try to discern the intent of the voter, when considering questionable ballots but it does not specify how.

The question is, what do you do? Does the chad have to be punched all the way out? Do you look at a dimple is that enough? Leon St. John, a Palm Beach County attorney explained Saturday. Its within the discretion of the canvassing board.

In 1990, the Palm Beach County canvassing board adopted a procedure stating that a fully attached chad, bearing only an indentation, should not be counted as a vote, while a partially punched chad should be counted.