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Friday, 24 November, 2000, 17:28 GMT
Were the voters confused?

Times have moved on from the days that voters simply needed to mark a cross next to their preferred candidates.

Now, millions of Americans insert a card into the top of a machine - known as a Votomatic.

They then use a pointed instrument or stylus to punch out a tiny rectangle of paper - the infamous chad - from their ballot papers.


Some people are timid and shy. They don't attack the card vigorously

Votomatic inventor
The ballots are run across an infrared reader, which detects which holes have been perforated.

Or so it goes in theory. In reality, as the election chaos has revealed, the machines are far from fool-proof.

And if the chad hasn't been properly knocked out, the vote will not be counted.

Dad of chad speaks up

But the man who invented the Votomatic machines says the voters have only themselves to blame.

William Rouverol came up with the design for the Votomatic machine at the University of California in 1962.


"Some people are timid and shy and so on," he told CBS news. "They don't attack the card vigorously."

Mr Rouverol says the Votomatic, jointly developed by himself and colleague, Joe Harris, was intended as the first stage of a system to quickly and easily tabulate election results.

"Joe Harris felt the whole procedure could be speeded up greatly if it took advantage of modern computer technology," he said.

However, the automatic counting procedure still has a long way to go.

Hanging chad can flip open and closed and detached chad can stick two cards together or migrate from one card to the next, jamming the system or blocking the light sensor.

Normally this is not a problem. But normally, the election race is not so close.

Some experts believe this year's chaos is largely due to the tightness of the race putting the vote counting system under far greater scrutiny than usual.

Programming fault

William Rouverol argues that the machine's previously spotless record proves it is not to blame for the fiasco.

Butterfly ballot paper
The controversial "butterfly" ballot card
He suggests a programming fault with the vote-counting computers is another possible explanation.

"The whole thing hinges on the programmer," he told CBS. "For example, if you switch just two numbers it gives all of the Bush votes to Gore and all Gore's votes to Bush."

Other people lay the blame at the door of electoral supervisor, Theresa LePore, who designed the controversial "butterfly ballot".

This was meant to make it easier for elderly voters but many said it led to them voting for the wrong candidate.

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See also:

22 Nov 00 | Americas
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Dick Cheney - Bush's elder statesman
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