Elections may be the bedrock of democracy, but counting votes is a complicated process. As Floridians head to the polls Tuesday to vote for a Republican candidate to go up against President Barack Obama, notorious past controversies from the Sunshine State come to mind.
The 2012 election season has already experienced voting confusion. Two weeks after the Iowa caucuses, certified results showed that Rick Santorum beat Mitt Romney by 34 votes, rather than lose to the Massachusetts ex-governor by eight votes as originally believed. According to the Des Moines Register, paper ballots are still missing from eight precincts.
The infamous recount of the 2000 presidential race isn't Florida's only election mishap. Below is a list of some voting controversies that have occurred there over the years.
The Butterfly Ballot (2000 Presidential Race)
The word recount itself brings up bitter memories from the 2000 presidential race between George W. Bush and Al Gore. Part of the reason election officials didn't get the right tally the first time was because the butterfly ballot confused Palm Beach County voters.
In butterfly ballots, the candidate's names are listed on two wide columns and arrows point to the correct circle to punch in the center (see picture above). But Palm Beach voters - many of which them senior citizens - didn't always follow the arrow to the right punch hole.
The paper ballots are generally much clearer this time around, with candidates divided by lines and no arrows to follow.
Hanging Chads (2000 Presidential Race)
Another reason why Florida needed to recount their results from the 2000 presidential race was because of the chad system.
Chads are paper fragments caused by punching holes in paper. In voting, citizens punch in the box corresponding to the candidate of their choice and the chad would fall into a designated place. Poll officials would then measure the chads.
The problem with chads, however, is that they must be properly punched in order to work smoothly. In the 2000 election, officials bickered over dimpled chads, indents in the ballot paper that could have indicated a vote, and hanging chads, when the paper didn't quite cut through on all sides.
Hanging chads are so controversial they have made its way into pop culture. In the How I Met Your Mother episode called The Slutty Pumpkin Returns, Ted dresses up as a hanging chad for Halloween.
Ted Mosby dressed as a hanging chad.
Technical Difficulties (2006 Attorney General Race)
Florida embraced touchscreen voting machines after the paper-voting fiasco of 2000, installing them in 15 counties, according to The New York Times. But in 2007, the state moved to revert to paper ballots because technical difficulties in 2006 gave the state even more problems.
In the 2006 attorney general's race, a quarter of the votes in Sumter County never registered. Kitty Garber, a poll researcher, told WFTV it was astounding that one in four voters who arrived at the polls didn't put in a vote that counted.
Paper ballots returned to the Sunshine State after February 2008.
Primary Calendar Mix-Up (2012 Presidential Race)
Seeking greater influence in the race, Florida violated both Democratic and Republican party rules by moving their primary up to Jan. 31. The move caused an angry chain-reaction that almost had candidates campaigning for a caucus in December. Officials in New Hampshire, Iowa and South Carolina's moved up their dates in response to Florida's move. Florida was penalized by losing convention delegates.
New Election Laws (2012 Presidential Race)
Many Democrats are up in arms about new election laws, charging they were passed by a GOP-majority legislature to suppress Democrat voter turnout. The laws, passed last year, cut early voting from 14 days before the election to seven days, require absentee ballots to be sent from the voters registered address and for voters to have a driver's license or other accepted identification.
Many Democrats say the laws are unfair to poorer or minority voters, who may not have identification, The Huffington Post reported. They claim the laws are also unfair senior citizens, who try to vote early because they can't stand on long lines. Those voters are more likely to vote Democrat. Republicans claim that the laws are needed to prevent voter fraud.