John Leo

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.

John Leo

John Leo is editor of and a former contributing editor at U.S. News and World Report.

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