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Description

A chad is a small fragment that is punched out and leftover when a hole is punched in a material such as paper or cardboard. The word's use dates to at least the 1930s when it was used in relation to teletype paper. Chads that are not completely punched out are given specific names. A dimpled chad still has all of its corners attached, but it has an indentation, appearing as if someone tried to punch it out. These are also known as pregnant chads, although this name sometimes implies they are more indented than dimpled chads. For four-cornered chads, other types of chads include tri-chads, which are attached at three corners; swinging chads, which are attached at two corners; and hanging chads, which are attached at just one corner.

It is unknown why January 4 was chosen as the date for Dimpled Chad Day, but it is just two days before January 6, the date in 2001 on which Congress made the official tally of electoral votes in the 2000 election. This gave George W. Bush 271 electoral votes, one more than was needed to secure the presidency and defeat Al Gore.

What does the 2000 election have to do with chads and the day? It was during the election when dimpled chads, something that seems so innocuous, came into the national consciousness. Many Florida counties used Votomatic voting machines, which have punch cards, for the election. One issue that these machines had was their "butterfly ballot" was confusing to voters, with many claiming they had accidentally voted for the wrong candidate because of it. The other issue had to do with chads. Many holes were not completely punched through, which led to dimpled, hanging, and other types of chads. These votes were not properly counted by mechanical machines. As the vote count was so close in the state, these problems became real issues.

Bush had a slight advantage in votes, and because the count was so close, an automatic machine recount took place. But this would not solve the problem of chads. On November 9, two days after the election, Gore's team called for a manual recount of Broward, Miami-Dade, Palm Beach, and Volusia counties. At issue with hand recounting was determining voters intent with the many ballots that had chads that were dimpled, hanging, or otherwise. What should a chad look like in order for a vote to be counted? Should a dimpled chad count? How about a hanging chad? This is what the particular counties grappled with. Ultimately, it was difficult to ascertain what a voters intent was. Not surprisingly, Democrats were in favor of counting dimpled chads, while Republicans were not.

For 36 days after the election, it was uncertain who would become president. During this time, counties started and stopped manually counting ballots numerous times. Bush's team used legal measures to try to stop hand recounts, while Gore's team did the same to try to keep the hand recounts going. There were a series of court challenges where a total of 47 lawsuits were filed. In the end, on December 12, the US Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 decision to stop the Florida recount.

There never would have been a Dimpled Chad Day without the chad's importance in the 2000 election. After the election, there soon was a move away from punch hole voting. The creators of the day said it is a "day to commemorate all the dimpled chads of the world, left over from various and sundry contested elections."

Dimpled Chad Day is observed next on Saturday, January 4th, 2020. It has always been observed annually on January 4th.

How to Observe

The day should be spent commemorating dimpled chads. It is uncertain exactly what the best way to do this is, but one idea may be to study the 2000 presidential election in more depth. Perhaps you could watch a documentary about the election such as Unprecedented or Bush v. Gore: The Endless Election, or a film such as Recount. You could also read a book about the election, such as Too Close to Call: The Thirty-Six-Day Battle to Decide the 2000 Election.

Occurrence Patterns

ObservedFirst YearLast Year
annually on January 4th--

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