FACT CHECK: Viral Image Falsely Claims Michigan Ballots Marked With Sharpie Will Not Be Counted

Trevor Schakohl | Fact Check Reporter

An image shared on Facebook claims Michigan ballots marked with Sharpies will not be counted as votes because the tabulation machines can’t read them.

Verdict: False

Michigan election officials have confirmed Sharpie pens can be used to mark ballots and using them will not invalidate votes.

Fact Check:

On Wednesday, claims that Michigan ballots marked with Sharpie pens would not be counted as votes circulated on social media. The Associated Press, Fox News and CNN called the presidential race in the battleground state of Michigan for Democratic candidate Joe Biden the same day.

This particular Facebook post shows an alleged hotline people can call if they “observe any issues at the polls” and urges Michigan voters to do so if they were given a Sharpie to fill out their ballots. “If you were given a black sharpie marker to fill out your ballot, call the MI number below to report your polling location!” the post says. “The machines will successfully count your ballot but not your vote, because the machines only detect black pen ink!”

Contrary to the post’s claim, Sharpies can be used to mark ballots in Michigan, and using one will not result in a person’s vote being canceled. Michigan Department of State Director Of Communications and External Affairs Jake Rollow referred Check Your Fact via email to the department’s Nov. 5 tweet thread addressing so-called “SharpieGate.” (RELATED: Viral Image Claims Michigan ‘Magically Found’ Over 130,000 Votes Cast For Joe Biden)

“The use of a Sharpie to mark a ballot will not invalidate or cancel a ballot or vote,” the thread states.  “If the marker does bleed through to the other side, ballots are designed so that the bleed through does not touch or come near a voting area on the other side of the ballot.”

“It will not alter or cancel any vote on the opposite side,” it continued. “The Sharpie is the recommended marking instrument by the tabulator manufacturer and is preferable to an ink pen because it dries quickly and will not leave residue on the ballot scanner.”

Kent County Clerk Lisa Posthumus Lyons also took to Twitter to address questions she received about ballots filled out with Sharpies in her county, saying, “Sharpies are the preferred device of our election equipment vendor. Black or blue pen also acceptable for proper tabulating. Bleed through is not a concern as ballots are programmed to ignore bleed.”

The false claim about Sharpie ballots previously circulated during the 2018 Michigan election, according to the Detroit Free Press. Michigan isn’t the only state during the 2020 presidential election to see false claims about votes being invalidated if ballots were filled out with Sharpie markers. Check Your Fact on Wednesday debunked a similar rumor about Arizona ballots.

This fact check is available at IFCN’s 2020 US Elections FactChat #Chatbot on WhatsApp. Click here, for more.

Trevor Schakohl

Fact Check Reporter
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