Presidency Hangs By A Chad

Judge Michael McDermott, chair of Canvassing Committe for Volusia County, right, takes a close look at a ballot as an observer, left, does the same Sunday, Nov. 12, 2000, at the Volusia County Thomas C. Kelly Administrative Center in DeLand, Fla., Judge McDermott and a small group were reviewing questionable ballots to try and determine the intent of the voter.
If you never had heard of a "pregnant chad" before Election Day, you're forgiven.

Thanks to the Florida recount saga that will ultimately decide whether George W. Bush or Al Gore is the next president, terms such as this one - for a ballot tab that's been pushed, but not all the way through - are joining the nation's lexicon.

"The presidency is literally hanging by a 'chad,'" said Hotline editor Craig Crawford told CBS News.

But what exactly is a "chad"? No, we're not talking about the name of a presidential candidate, a high-paid campaign lawyer, or even a cable TV pundit. A "chad" is election worker jargon for those dangling bits of cardboard that are produced when voters fail to punch out holes completely in punch card ballots, thus making the cardboard ballot unreadable by counting machines.

Peering through ballot cards and holding them up to the light for a "sunshine test," election workers in a handful of Florida's counties have been doing the painstaking work of recounting votes by hand in order to determine the kinds of "chad" that they see.

Of the several ways of describing a "chad", these four have been counted as votes:

  • Punched chad. Punched all the way out.
  • Hanging door chad. One corner is attached to the ballot.
  • Swinging door chad. Two corners are attached.
  • Tri chad. Three corners are attached.
The other two types of "chad" have not been counted as votes:
  • Pregnant chad. A bulge, but no punch through the ballot.
  • Dimple chad. An indentation on the ballot, but no perforation.
That brings us to the ongoing legal and political dispute between Republican Bush and Democrat Gore. Bush's team argues the hand recounts are subjective, given the tricky nature of the "chads" - as well as the largely Democratic counties in which those recounts have been (or are still) taking place.

Gore's camp replies that machine counts alone miss many ballots - a phenomenon known as "undervotes" - thanks to the "chads." In other words, if a "chad" is "dimpled," "pregnant," "swinging" or "hanging," the machine may not read it - but a human eye may consider it a legitimate vote. And so, the Gore team says, only a hand recount ensures that every valid vote cast is properly and fully counted.