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Florida Counties’ Recount Methods

November 21, 2000

Florida counties have different standards for counting votes:


Teams of counters, watched by observers from each party, tally votes from ballots with clearly marked votes or chads that have at least two corners detached. The county’s three-member canvassing board must review any ballots that are questioned by the counters and determine if the votes are valid. Ballots with two or more votes, known as ``overvotes,″ are thrown out.

All ballots with dimpled chads or just one corner of the chad detached are set aside to be reviewed by the canvassing board after all other ballots are counted. The board originally said it would not consider votes with anything less than two corners of the chad detached. However, it reversed its decision after lawyers said that standard may not hold up in court.


Teams of two counters tally ballots with clear votes. They are monitored by observers from each party. If an observer or counter questions a ballot, it is set aside for review by the full canvassing board. When the recount process began, the board decided it would count any vote where the corners of the chad were punched. The board then decided to use the ``sunlight test″ that would count a vote if light came through the indentation. Later, that method was found to be flawed and the board returned to disqualifying votes not punched through.


Elections officials sift through the county’s ballots to segregate the ``undervotes,″ ballots that do not have clear selections. Those ballots are reviewed by the canvassing board. Counting teams are instructed to look only at ballots that have clearly punched holes or chads that have at least two corners poked out. Any ballot that does not fit those criteria is passed to the canvassing board for review. The board said it will accept the ballots if the voter’s intent is clear.

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