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MIAMI _ Even after all of Florida's disputed ballots from last fall's presidential election were examined by hand _ every dimpled and hanging chad, every ballot containing more than one vote for president _ the contest for the state's 25 electoral votes and the White House is a split decision.
Neither Democrat Al Gore nor Republican George W. Bush amassed a commanding, unambiguous lead. The outcome depends on how you count the ballots.
The Miami Herald, Knight Ridder Newspapers, USA Today and several Florida newspapers reviewed more than 176,000 ballots that were rejected by counting machines on Nov. 8. This review included the first statewide examination of more than 111,000 overvotes, ballots that were not counted on Election Day because they appeared to contain votes for more than one candidate.
Four different standards can be used to count those infamous punch-card ballots that didn't record any votes for president when they were run through the counting machines, and the review examined ballots under all four.
Bush would have prevailed under the two most restrictive. His biggest margin would have been 407 votes under the standard most commonly accepted by states that use punch-card ballots. It requires that two corners of a ballot's chad must be detached in order for the vote to count.
Gore would have won under the two most permissive standards. His biggest margin would have been 332 votes if dimpled chads, which bulge out but are still attached at all four corners, were considered valid votes.
Those margins represent …