We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What is a Hanging Chad?

By G. Wiesen
Updated May 17, 2024
Our promise to you
America Explained is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At America Explained, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

A hanging chad refers to a small piece of paper intended to be punched from a larger sheet of paper, but still remaining attached. The term came into general public discourse during the 2000 United States (US) presidential election when unusually close voting numbers resulted in a hand recount of thousands of ballots in Florida. During this time, there was a great deal of discussion regarding the eligibility of ballots that had a hanging chad instead of a cleanly punched hole, to indicate the voter’s choice of candidate. The term has remained in popular usage, especially among political commentators and figures within popular culture.

The 2000 US election featured a hotly debated contest between then Vice President Al Gore and Texas Governor George W. Bush. On the night of the election, the state of Florida became the center of national attention, as exit polling indicated that Gore had won in Florida and these results were stated by several television networks. Several hours later, however, more votes were tallied and the initial prediction was retracted and changed to “too close to call” by the television broadcasts.

A few hours after that, the state was declared to have gone to Bush and he was named the next president-elect by several stations. This was before some of the more prominently pro-Gore districts had been tallied, however, and the results were eventually found to be so close that a hand recount was required by law before a final result could be given. Though the recount eventually ended under a storm of controversy, the process introduced the general public to the hanging chad and shone a new light on American politics.

During this recount process, the methods used to vote on ballots in Florida were brought into the national spotlight, and the hanging chad came into the group consciousness of the US. The method used to indicate a chosen candidate on the Florida ballots involved pressing a metal piece through the paper ballot to punch out a hole for the preferred candidate. In many cases, this was done cleanly and the desired candidate was obvious to even a casual observer.

Other ballots, however, were not as easily tallied and these became the source of much debate, frustration and controversy. In situations where the chad, the small piece of paper punched out by a voter, was not cleanly separated from the ballot, the result was referred to as a hanging chad. For a four-cornered chad, the term is usually used only in situations where a single corner is still attached to the paper. As the process made national headlines, however, the phrase was used commonly and the hanging chad became synonymous both with the actual paper pieces themselves and with a sense of the general breakdown of election procedures.

America Explained is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By anon926926 — On Jan 21, 2014

@Glasis: The individual states generally choose their own voting methods based on a number of reasons, some of which are political and some are financial. Replacing voting machines across the entire state and educating the public on how to use the new ones can be very expensive and very controversial. The situation in Florida partially happened because a lot of older voters in one particular county apparently thought they were voting for one candidate (Al Gore), but the hole punch actually led to a vote for Pat Buchanan. Some people didn't push hard enough on the ballot to mark a clear vote for any candidate.

There were also claims of improper voting in Ohio. The company that made the voting machines, Diebold, also supported Republican candidates during the campaign season. When the votes were tallied, the Republican candidates won by a considerable margin, even though a lot of voters said they voted for the Democratic or third party candidates. The electronic vote counters inside the machines may have had bad or altered programming. Tests with similar machines showed that a number of votes for one fake candidate actually read as votes for the other fake candidate or as no vote at all.

By Glasis — On Jan 02, 2014

The controversy that resulted from the hanging chad fiasco in Florida leaves no doubt that the United States really needs to adopt one, universal type of ballot and voting machine for each polling place.

Why do we still have a hodgepodge of paper and electric ballots, punch ballots, pencil-marked ballots, touch screen machines and lever machines?

Claims of ballot tampering will never die if this problem is not addressed.

America Explained, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

America Explained, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.