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The little crumb of paper that sticks to the back of partially punched ballots causes a day of headaches for workers recounting the presidential election votes.
By RYAN DAVIS
© St. Petersburg Times, published November 9, 2000
NEW PORT RICHEY -- Tuesday was about Ralph, George W. and Al.
On Wednesday, Pasco County's final swing voter, Chad, took center stage.
"Chad doesn't get any votes," said Kurt Browning, Pasco County supervisor of elections. "He certainly takes votes away."
"Chad" is the pet name for the crumb-sized piece of paper that voters punch from their ballot.
When he's not fully punched out of the ballot, he can swing in front of the hole punch, causing Pasco County's vote-counting machines to read the ballot as having no vote.
With no reported missing ballot boxes or widespread voting irregularities in Pasco, Chad was the highlight of the county's recount Wednesday afternoon in New Port Richey and Dade City.
A second handling of the ballots caused him to fall out of the way on several ballots, revealing 14 more votes for Gore and one more vote for Bush.
That added to Gore's victory margin here and helped him close the statewide gap on Bush by 13 votes. Final Pasco tally: 69,564 Gore and 68,582 Bush.
State law mandates a recount in any race where two candidates are separated by less than half a percentage point. The winner in Florida will be the next president.
Pasco's recount results will be certified today at noon, Browning said. Military absentee ballots are accepted until Nov. 17, provided they are postmarked Tuesday or earlier. Browning expects fewer than a dozen such votes, which tend to go Republican, he said. Then the results will be certified again.
Wednesday's recount wasn't about glamour.
It was about Chad.
And it was about a group of Democrat and Republican observers watching a ballot-counting process of feeding ballots through a machine that blows them across a sensor, a process they admittedly couldn't begin to explain.
The two-person Holland and Knight legal team representing Gore's campaign walked away Wednesday without a comment.
The Bush team walked away knowing that if Al Gore made up 13 votes in every county, he will still come up 867 votes short.
Browning walked away tired, hungry and glowing about how much he loves his job.
At 2:30 Wednesday morning, Browning leaned into the sofa in his Dade City home. He fell asleep, thinking his job was done.
Later in the morning his wife nudged him in bed. On the radio he heard the nation was looking to him and Florida's 66 other county election supervisors.
Browning walked into the New Port Richey office at 1 p.m. The recount began with a conference phone call to Dade City at 1:21 p.m.
Known as the Board of Canvassing, Browning and County Commissioner Ann Hildebrand oversaw the process in New Port Richey. County Judge Robert Cole and Commissioner Sylvia Young oversaw Dade City's recount.
1:24: Browning's blue blazer comes off. About 20 people crowd the room in New Port Richey, some working, some watching.
1:25: The accuracy of the 23-year-old counting machines is certified and a form stating that is signed and placed in Browning's metal locked briefcase. "I keep Social Security in there," he joked later.
1:58: Workers discover the second of three cards ripped during the recount. Browning fills out a substitute ballot in view of representatives from both sides.
2:39: County computer programmers recounting ballots can't recount a ballot with an "I voted" sticker attached to the bottom. Browning pulls it off carefully and the recounting continues.
3:12: Recounting complete in Dade City.
3:13: Browning declares the results final.
3:19: "Well, did history unravel before our eyes today?" Hildebrand asks.
3:31: Over the phone, Browning announces the canvassing board is in recess.
Browning leaned back in his chair, hands cupped behind his head of white hair.
The last time he sat like this, he fell asleep. Not again.
The excitement has been his breakfast, lunch and caffeine. With a little help from Chad.
"Hanging Chad," he said, "has caused me a great deal of lost sleep, gray hair and anxiety because of days like this."
- Staff writer Brady Dennis contributed to this report.
Presidential State Pinellas Hillsborough Pasco Hernando Citrus
From the AP
State Pinellas Hillsborough Pasco Hernando Citrus
Pinellas Hillsborough Pasco Hernando Citrus