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Wednesday, 21 March, 2001, 14:15 GMT
Chads punched out in Florida
Electoral officials collect chads during the election recount
Now elections will be chad-free in Florida
They caused election officials headaches, held up the outcome of the US presidential election, and gave the world a new political word to play with: Chad.

But now chads are set to be consigned to the dustbin, if not the dustbin of history, after Florida announced plans to use updated technology and standardised ballots.


There'll be no more hanging chads, no more pregnant chads, no more punch card ballots

Katherine Harris, Florida Secretary of State

Voters in Florida were supposed to knock out a small rectangle next to their choice of candidate last November. But thousands of votes were discarded by automatic machines because they were not punched properly.

Amid the tight race for votes in the sunshine state, fierce arguments ensued about whether to count ballots whose chads had managed to cling on by one or more of the cardboard slivers connecting it to the card.

The Florida Secretary of State, Katherine Harris, detailed a list of reforms to avoid any repeat of the election chaos.

" I never want to relive the longest election night in history when we have the chance to break new ground," said Mrs Harris.

Centralised system

Under her proposals, optical scanners will replace older technologies including the punch card ballots that confused tens of thousands of voters.

Electoral official displays a chad
Small but not insignificant: chads meant votes were re-counted and re-counted
Also included in her $200m, three-year plan, is a centralised voter database that would automatically update registration lists, identify duplicates and remove dead voters from the electoral rolls.

"I am guided by duty and conscience to pursue a comprehensive approach to reform, not a band-aid fix, " said Mrs Harris as she urged members of Florida's Congress to approve the funds for the new technology.

Mrs Harris is a Republican political ally of the man who eventually went on to win, George W Bush. As Florida's top election official, she certified the final result which gave Mr Bush victory by a mere 537 votes.

Disenfranchised

As the world watched to see whether Mr Bush or Al Gore would win Florida and with it the presidency, Florida's butterfly ballots and antiquated voting machines came under close scrutiny.

Republican observer at Broward County manual recount
Many Floridians claimed they were disenfranchised
There were also plenty of jokes as election officials held endless discussions about dimpled, hanging and pregnant chads.

But the confusion also gave rise to serious complaints, many of them by African-Americans, that they had been disenfranchised.

The proposals by Mrs Harris closely mirror recommendations of a task force set up by Florida Governor, Jeb Bush, following the election that brought his brother to power.

Last month, the task force concluded that outdated voting equipment, inadequately trained poll workers and the lack of standard procedures resulted in more than 180,000 votes being thrown out.

Some independent recounts of the votes have indicated that Mr Gore won, although other surveys suggested Mr Bush would still have been the winner, even without chads and all the election chaos they caused.

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See also:

23 Nov 00 | Americas
Florida counters under pressure
22 Nov 00 | Americas
Political poker in Florida
23 Nov 00 | C-D
Chad
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