I quoted the following sentence from the guardian newspaper.

With a fumbled start that many will hope does not herald more serious voting irregularities to come, residents of Dixville delivered four votes for Hillary Clinton, two for Trump, one for libertarian Gary Johnson and a quirky write-in for the 2012 Republican nominee Mitt Romney.

I have 2 questions.

[ 1 ] What does a "fumbled start" mean? As we following the link, we can see a picture in which a man is about to cast a vote in US presidential election. Why did the article depict him as a "fumbled start"?

[ 2] What is the subject of the verb "herald"? Is the subject "that" (in "that many will hope")? If it is the case, What does "that" refer to?

  • 1
    The article doesn't say the man was a fumbled start, it says the start was fumbled. It looks like the paper ballot didn't go in the ballot box properly.
    – stangdon
    Nov 8, 2016 at 17:49

1 Answer 1


A "fumbled start" means the process started awkwardly and not according to plan. It is possibly an American football-related metaphor, where a fumble is a clumsy mistake when the player who has possession of the ball drops or otherwise loses control of it. Although since the Guardian is a British newspaper, fumbled might just be the dictionary meaning "clumsy".

However it is not clear from the article why the election in Dixville was clumsy or mismanaged. Quirky votes were cast, but that doesn't mean the process was irregular in any way. So it might be a simple mistake.

A "herald" is an official messenger or official who announces something important (often the approach of an important person). "To herald" is a verb that means "to act like a herald", in this case metaphorically indicating the possibility of more election irregularities (but hopefully not).

Taken together, the sentence says the Dixville election was irregular, and hopefully not a sign of more election irregularities in the rest of the country.

Edit: Apparently the guy in the photo dropped (i.e. fumbled) his ballot when putting it in the box. So the Guardian writer makes a tongue-in-cheek observation that this is hopefully not a sign of more fumbling in other elections.

  • 2
    Urg. Useful but misleading. There was no voting irregularity at the Dixville election except for the dropped/fumbled ballot of the guy in the photo. Nov 8, 2016 at 18:42
  • 1
    @AlanCarmack so he fumbled his ballot in the same way a quarterback might fumble the football? Urg is right.
    – Andrew
    Nov 8, 2016 at 18:44
  • 3
    That's my take, since the photo caption is by an American and it looks like the guy has dropped the ballot onto the ballot box instead of putting it into the slot. The Guardian is alluding to that 'fumbled start' (by linking to it) and then using it as a metaphor for possible (but hopefully not) other, more serious 'voting irregularities' nationwide. Nov 8, 2016 at 18:48
  • @Andrew I see your explanation. But I still have a problem to understand the grammar of the sentence. Can I read the sentence like this? "With something, that (many will hope) does not herald... "
    – MS.Kim
    Nov 9, 2016 at 0:21
  • 1
    @MS.Kim It would be "With [some event which might have some significance], the residents voted."
    – Andrew
    Nov 9, 2016 at 0:47

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