John Leo
Now, more than ever, it is important for all Americans to know their chads. As a public service, here is a voter's guide:

THE PROPERLY PUSHED-THROUGH CHAD

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.

SWINGING CHAD, HANGING CHAD, TRI-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.

THE FOUR-CORNER OR MORON'S CHAD

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.

THE SUNLIT 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.

THE DIMPLED CHAD, THE PREGNANT CHAD

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.

THE MEANDERING DIMPLED CHAD

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.

THE FOOD-MARKED CHAD

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.

THE PALM BEACH KAMIKAZE CHAD

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 MindingTheCampus.com and a former contributing editor at U.S. News and World Report.

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