FACT CHECK: Viral Video Falsely Claims Ballots Marked With Sharpie Were Invalidated In Arizona

Elias Atienza | Senior Reporter

A video shared on Facebook claims ballots cast in Arizona’s Maricopa County were disqualified because voters were forced to use Sharpie pens that tabulation machines couldn’t read.

Verdict: False

Sharpies can be used in Arizona to fill out ballots, and the state’s tabulation machines can read them. If a ballot cannot be read by a tabulation machine, a ballot review board would duplicate it to ensure the vote gets counted.

Fact Check:

The video features a woman who claims she witnessed poll workers at a voting site in Maricopa County forcing voters to use Sharpie pens that tabulation machines couldn’t read, resulting in canceled votes. One Nov. 3 iteration of the video was captioned “Tonight’s voting shenanigans” on Facebook.

Despite online claims regarding the Sharpies, Arizona election officials have confirmed that Sharpies can be used to fill out ballots. Using them will not invalidate a ballot. (RELATED: Viral Image Falsely Claims Wisconsin Had More Votes Cast Than Registered Voters)

Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, for instance, tweeted on Nov. 4 that “if you voted a regular ballot in-person, your ballot will be counted, no matter what kind of pen you used (even a Sharpie)!” During an interview with local affiliate Fox 10, she expanded on the topic, saying, “I can assure voters that nobody in a polling place, a trained employed polling place worker is not going to give you a pen to mark your ballot that is going to invalidate your ballot.”

The Maricopa County Elections Department also said that voters can use a Sharpie to fill out their ballots in an Oct. 26 tweet.

“MARKING YOUR BALLOT: Did you know you can use a black or blue ballpoint pen and even sharpie to mark your ballot?” the Maricopa County Elections Department tweeted. “Even if there is bleed through it won’t impact counting because our upgraded ballots have off-centered columns and our new tabulators only read the ovals.”

Even if there was an issue with a ballot related to using a Sharpie, the vote wouldn’t be discarded, according to the Arizona Secretary of State 2019 Elections Procedures Manual. A “damaged or unreadable ballot” must be duplicated and tabulated by a “Ballot Duplication Board” that comprises of “at least two members who are registered voters not of the same political party,” the manual outlines.

“The Ballot Duplication Board duplicates ballots that cannot be read by the tabulation machine but on which the voter has nonetheless clearly indicated their intent to vote on a particular race or ballot measure,” the manual states. “This may include crumpled or otherwise damaged ballots, ballots with smudged ink, or ballots which are marked in the wrong color of ink or with a device that cannot be read by the tabulation machine.”

The Maricopa County Elections Department explained in a video posted on Twitter that a Sharpie has the “fastest-drying ink and works best on tabulation equipment.”

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Elias Atienza

Senior Reporter
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