Yet Another Voting FAQ

Answers to your questions about the news.
Nov. 15 2000 7:38 PM

Yet Another Voting FAQ

Can you vote for president if you've permanently moved to another country?

Yes. That's why Florida, and the world, is waiting for the results from the overseas absentee ballots. Under the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act, military personnel stationed abroad and U.S. citizens who have relocated are still entitled to vote in the United States. These people generally register to vote by listing what was their last legal United States residence, even though it may be now owned or occupied by someone else. The law even allows for U.S. citizens who have never resided in the United States to vote in federal elections. (For instance, adult children of U.S. expatriates.)

Why is Florida waiting until after the Friday deadline for arrival of overseas ballots to count them all? Why isn't there a running tally?

Explainer couldn't get Florida on the phone, so instead did a sample survey of 2 percent of the country's secretaries of state. Let's extrapolate the answer from Massachusetts, which, like Florida, gives these overseas ballots 10 days after the election to arrive. Since the ballots are opened at a public meeting in front of representatives from both political parties, the registrars from various cities and towns designate a specific day to convene and open all the overseas ballots that did not arrive in time to be counted on Election Day.

Explainer, yesterday you saidthat who we voted for cannot be traced back to us. Is that really true?

Yes. Except in Arkansas. Alert Arkansans notified Explainer that this year their state Supreme Court upheld a 1962 law that required ballots to be secret, but traceable. (Given the year of the law, it has an anti-voting-rights ring, but the Arkansas secretary of state's office is not confirming.) The ballots are numbered and so are the stubs. Then in the case of a contested election, under court order the number can be traced back to the individual voter. The justification is that accuracy is more important than secrecy. Just think if Florida had this law! Palm Beach officials could simply pick up a stub, match a ballot, and ask that nice Mrs. Rabinowitz if she really did intend to vote for Pat Buchanan.

Who is this Chadless person who gave his or her name to the infamous "chad"?

Explainer has received many citations asserting that the word "chad" is a back-formation from "chadless" keypunch or tape. The story goes a Mr. (Ms.?) Chadless invented a system to partially punch holes in data tape or cards so that the little pieces of debris did not get loose and clog the works. If the partial punch was called "chadless," after the inventor, then the fully punched stuff became "chad." So where is Chadless or the Chadless heirs? An Explainer search of many genealogy sites results in zero hits for the name "Chadless." Explainer doesn't buy it. Another possible origin is that "chad" is derived from a British expression for gravel.

Explainer, in your first FAQyou gave statistics from the Federal Election Commission on the different types of voting machines used in the last presidential election. Those numbers added up to 92 percent. What gives?

Explainer puts in these little errors just to sharpen readers' math skills. Actually, Explainer is looking for a former secretary of state who can seek redress on her behalf from the FEC. Really and truly Explainer is looking into this and will try to have a corrected answer soon.

Explainer thanks Brian McNiff of the Office of the Secretary of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

For previous Voting FAQs, click here and here.

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