POLYAS Election Glossary

We provide explanations and background information on elections, voting rights and digital democracy

Hanging Chad

A hanging chad is a fragment from a punch-card ballot paper which has not detached fully, resulting in an incomplete and therefore invalid ballot paper. Punch-card voting machines require voters to punch holes in their ballot papers in order to indicate their voting preferences. The small discarded fragment of paper is called a “chad”. "Hanging chads" result when ballot papers are not completely punched through and the small piece of paper or card prevents the ballot paper from being marked down as a definite vote for a particular candidate.

Hanging chads were partly responsible for the unusually high proportion of invalid votes recorded in Florida during the 2000 US Presidential election. As Chads weren’t completely punched through, many ballot papers recorded people voting for fewer than the minimum number of candidates required. The US invested heavily in electronic voting methods such as voting machines, but still faces significant difficulties with elections.

With the advent of online voting, hanging chads and the problems they bring to elections can stay where they belong - in the past.

See also: Voting Machine, Ballot Paper, Ballot Box Election, iVoting

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