'Chad' barred from Albright's family tree
WASHINGTON, (Reuters) - A chad can dangle, be dimpled, or even get pregnant. But it will never win a place in Secretary of State Madeleine Albright's family tree.
"I have been particularly impressed by the average citizens in Florida who have worked hard to count ballots fairly so that everyone's voice is heard," she told a conference Thursday.
"I must tell you, however, that if I should ever be blessed with another grandchild, it will not be named Chad," she added, provoking laughter at an U.S. Agency for International Development democracy event.
Pieces of paper which should be punched out of a ballot card when a vote is cast, "chad" have had a major role in the bruising, three-week battle between Democratic Vice President Al Gore and Republican George W. Bush over who got more votes in the decisive state of Florida which certified a Bush margin of 537 votes Sunday.
With a Dec. 12 deadline looming for Florida to name its electors, Gore's lawyers have filed a string of legal challenges including one saying ballots were not counted because the card's chad had not been fully punched out and detached, producing a dangling, dimpled or pregnant chad.
Albright, a Democrat, normally avoids political comments, partly because agreeing on steps to implement foreign policy is so often based on building consensus among lawmakers.
But as her time in office comes to an end, her comment on counting all the votes in Florida went to the heart of the bruising battle between Gore and Bush.
Gore has repeatedly stressed that every vote counts, and that a manual recount is needed to reach ballots rejected by counting machines. Bush, however, considers the counting complete.
The Texas governor got fewer votes nationwide but would win the presidency if he took Florida because the election is decided according to who got more of the 538 electoral college votes, allotted state by state by a system partly related to the size of their population.
A diehard supporter of democratic principles whose family fled first the Nazis and abandoned their Czechoslovak homeland a second time because of communist rule, Albright expressed faith in American democracy despite the delays.
"Although the process has been excruciating, I cannot help but be proud of the durability of American democracy," she said.
"Since Nov. 7, Americans have been given the equivalent of a quadruple-shot of democratic espresso. Rarely in recent times have our institutions been so tested, and never has the importance of voting been so clear."
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