MIAMI - As many as 1,700 Miami-Dade County voters invalidated their presidential ballots because they mistakenly punched the chad immediately below the one corresponding to their preferred candidate, a California researcher has found.
Those voters penetrated a meaningless chad - one that didn't correspond to any candidate - probably because their punch cards were not properly aligned with ballot books in the voting booth, said Anthony Salvanto, a faculty fellow in the political science department at the University of California at Irvine.
If the voters' cards had been aligned properly, Salvanto said, Vice President Al Gore would have gained 316 more votes than President-elect George W. Bush.
The findings are the latest evidence that many voters whose ballots showed no presidential preference actually did intend to vote. The thwarted votes found by Salvanto represent more than 15 percent of Miami-Dade's 10,650 undervotes.
Salvanto and Miami-Dade elections officials believe the voters failed to properly align their ballot cards with the ballot books in the voting booth, leading them to inadvertently punch the wrong chads. They surmise that voters' lack of familiarity with the county's punch-card machines might be the cause. Salvanto suggested alternatively that the ballot slots in some voting machines may have been misaligned.
Salvanto is conducting a national study of voting behavior and had arranged before the presidential election to obtain data for every ballot cast Nov. 7 in Miami-Dade.