The infamous "butterfly ballot" of the 2000 election confused voters in Palm Beach county who punched the second button, thinking it was for Al Gore, sending their votes to Pat Buchanan instead.

My question is, why did this only happen in Palm Beach county, not in the other Florida counties? Does Florida have a different ballot for each county?

Edit/Update: Did Florida have a different ballot for each county in 2000 (even if it doesn't today)? Are there states today that have different ballots for each county? If so, why?

Butterfly ballot of the 200 presidential election


1 Answer 1


The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights published a report: Voting Irregularities in Florida During the 2000 Presidential Election.

Selectively quoting from Chapter 8: The Machinery of Elections:

Florida lacks uniform voting systems for its 8.4 million voters. Each county is authorized to select its voting method from the list of systems certified by the secretary of state and the state Division of Elections.


There are five voting systems used in Florida’s 67 counties: punch cards (24 counties), optical scan central tabulation (16 counties), optical scan precinct tabulation (25 counties), paper ballot (one county), and machine lever (one county).


Theresa LePore, supervisor of elections for Palm Beach County, decided that because tens of thousands of her voters were elderly, she would not be able to solve the space problem by using extremely small typeface. Instead, Ms. LePore decided to place the names on two facing pages, with punch holes running down the center, and arrows pointing from the names to the holes. Wing-like in appearance, the ballot came to be known as the butterfly ballot.


The Florida Election Reform Act of 2001 attempted to achieve uniformity of election systems in Florida.

So yes, this ballot was unique to Palm Beach County due to a poor – albeit well-intentioned – decision from the official responsible for the ballot.

There was also some confusion in Duval county for different reasons:

The list of presidential candidates was spread over two pages, and voters were only permitted to vote for one candidate. Some people, however, voted for one candidate on each of the two pages, thereby invalidating their ballot with an overvote. Moreover, this problem was exacerbated by the fact that the sample ballot in Duval County explicitly instructed people to “vote all pages” of the ballot, leading to thousands of spoiled ballots.

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