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Jewish World Review Nov. 20, 2000 / 22 Mar-Cheshvan 5761

John Leo

John Leo
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Consumer Reports

It's a chad, chad, chad, chad world -- NOW, more than ever, it is important for all Americans to know their chads. As a public service, here is a voter's guide:


This is the boring, all-too-familiar chad found in every election district, even in Florida. Since the pushed-through chad leaves so little room for interpretation, it is generally scorned by advanced chadologists, though most freely concede that it should be counted along with more challenging kinds of chad.


These are chads attached to the ballot by one corner (a hanging chad), two corners (a swinging chad) or three corners (a tri-chad). One striking phenomenon among cornered chads is that they tend to move up in class in the days following an election: a tri-chad may become a swinger, and a swinger may become a hanger.


A chad attached by all four corners with no evidence of being marked or pushed is known as a moron's chad, one of the most perplexing kinds of chad to assign to a candidate. Only two chadologists in the world, both at work this week in Palm Beach, are able to properly interpret and assign the moron's chad.


Whether attached by one, two, three or all four corners, chads may be readily counted if daylight can be spotted when the ballot is held up for inspection. Since holding the ballot up in the air while squinting at it is the only known photo opportunity in all chadology, the sunlit chad is the most familiar of all chads to TV viewers.


Many beginning chadologists confuse the dimpled chad with the pregnant chad, and some even argue that they are one and the same. But there's a world of difference between getting dimpled and getting pregnant.

A dimpled chad is created by a voter who unsuccessfully struggles with all of his or her might to push the stylus through a stubbornly resisting chad. The result of this stand-off between voter and chad is a sharp pinprick or dimple. A pregnant chad, on the other hand, maintains a rounded profile, of the sort that might be created by a coin, dentures or even the edge of an aluminum walker.

People who vote this way are telling us something. But what? Instead of being negative (criticizing the voter or even trying to disallow the ballot), we must discover the feelings embodied in the decision to produce a chad pregnancy.


For whatever reason, perhaps fear of cuts in Social Security, many Florida voters apparently lack the strength to push the chad from their ballot. Most of these voters leave dimples on or near the chad that they attempt to dislodge. Even without a chadologist present, most recounters know how to create valid votes out of indentations made within an inch or two of their favorite candidate's name.

Indentations that are further away from the targeted chad are more of a problem. But when vigorously analyzed, they may yield useful meaning. For instance, a wandering dimple that seems to be angled slightly toward the name of a given candidate, say, Al Gore, might fairly be assigned to the Democratic column.


Many voters express their will or intention by marking ballots with coffee, snacks or gum. Overly judgmental people believe that these ballots should not be counted at all, but chadologists are more tolerant. They argue that the evidence of the voter's will is there in the stain to be read, if only we are dedicated enough to do the reading.

A word of caution here: Interpreting food-marked chads is not for the beginner. Some cases, however, are comparatively simple. For example, one chocolate smear, spread evenly over the intact chads of Gore and Bush on one voting card, was chemically analyzed and shown to be from a Moon Pie. Since Moon Pies are made in Tennessee, it was easy to see that the ballot was intended for Al Gore.


These are chads that gamely hang on to their ballots for a week or more, then, while being examined during recounts, decide to dive to the floor in large numbers. Though no one fully understands why chads tend to behave this way in the Palm Beach area, the advantage is that chad-diving kamikaze ballots require no interpretative skills and are quite easy to count. This frees busy chadologists for work on more baffling ballots.

Here's the best part: Objectivity is important during recounts, so it's a relief to know that chadology is a science. If the courts finally allow recounts, we won't have added votes by some kind of politicized foraging among rejected ballots. We will have depended on science, and that's always the way to go.

JWR contributor John Leo's latest book is Two Steps Ahead of the Thought Police. Send your comments by clicking here.


11/13/00: The election rhetoric is running much too high
11/07/00: How yesterday's hero becomes tomorrow's heel
10/30/00: Would Bush's Supreme Court picks make a difference?
10/24/00: Yankees, go home!
10/17/00: Un-American activity?
10/10/00: A tempest in an ink pot
10/03/00: The Al Gore quiz
09/26/00: The sleeper effect
09/19/00: Baby-saving made easy
09/12/00: Line between reporting and editorializing continues to blur
09/05/00: In the key of F
08/29/00: Hollywood connection
08/22/00: Some friendly advice to the GOP
08/15/00: You can't make this up
08/08/00: The niceness strategy
08/01/00: When rules don't count
07/25/00: Anti-male bias increasingly pervades our culture
07/18/00: Banned in Boston
07/12/00: What Jacoby had to deal with!
07/11/00: Will boys be boys?
07/05/00: Partial-sense decision
06/27/00: Attitude toward death penalty gets in the way of facts
06/20/00: Double troubles
06/13/00: Fools paradise
06/06/00: Accidental conspirator
05/30/00: Faking the hate
05/23/00: Was it law or poetry?
05/16/00: Here, there and everywhere, people have gone bonkers
05/09/00: Tufts evangelicals are punished for acting on their beliefs
05/02/00: Elian's opera isn't over until nearly everyone sings
04/25/00: All the news that fits: The media serve up many stories from a standard script
04/19/00: Those darned readers: The gap between reporters and the general public is huge
04/05/00: Census sense and nonsense
03/29/00: Hollywood message films leave no room for other views
03/22/00: The Vatican confesses, but is it enough?
03/14/00: Watch what you say: The left can no longer be counted on to defend free speech
03/07/00: McCain's malleable messages
03/01/00: Bush's appearance at Bob Jones U. will dog him all the way
02/23/00: 'Multi-millionaire' show is new evidence we're insane

© 2000, John Leo