Election officials: Despite some voter concerns, Sharpie pens will not harm an election ballot

Posted at 3:56 AM, Nov 04, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-04 15:19:29-05

PHOENIX — Are Sharpie pens OK to use on an election ballot? The answer is yes.

According to the Maricopa County Recorder and Elections Department's website, a blue or black ballpoint pen or a Sharpie pen are OK to use to fill out an election ballot. Red or red-adjacent should not be used.

"Voters at home may use ballpoint pens in black or blue ink or a Sharpie. Vote Centers use fine tip Sharpies as they have the fastest drying ink, therefore preventing smudges when put through the Vote Center tabulation equipment," reads an answer on the Maricopa County Recorder's "FAQ" page (question 12).

The Maricopa County Elections Department also shared an explanatory video via Twitter on Tuesday afternoon about the use of Sharpie pens, hours prior to polls closing in Arizona.

Posts and rumors on social media caused several voters to express concerns that the use of Sharpie pens at some voting centers in Arizona may have caused their ballot to not be counted.

Others alleged that if the ink bled through the ballot, it would not be read by tabulation machines.

County and election officials immediately pushed back against those rumors.

"Sharpies are not a problem for our tabulation equipment, and the offset columns on ballots ensure that bleed through won’t impact your vote," the official Maricopa County Twitter account said Wednesday.

"If you voted a regular ballot in-person, your ballot will be counted, no matter what kind of pen you used (even a Sharpie)!" said Secretary of State Katie Hobbs in a Twitter thread.

Hobbs also responded to some voter concerns that their early ballots were listed as "canceled" when their status was checked on the Secretary of State's website.

"Voters who received an early ballot in the mail but chose to instead vote in-person will see their early ballot status as “Canceled” on their Ballot-by-Mail/Early Ballot Status update. This is because the early ballot is canceled so the ballot cast-in person can be counted," she said.

"The felt-tip pen ballot controversy burning through social media is false. Don't get caught up in it. Arizona ballot tabulating machines can read ballots marked with a felt tip pen. Felt pens are discouraged because the ink can bleed through," read a tweet from Pima County's official Twitter account.

In response to complaints from voters, Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich, whose office is tasked with investigating election concerns, sent a letter to the Maricopa County Elections Department with a number of questions about the use of Sharpie pens at voting centers.

ABC15's Nicole Valdes spoke with election officials before the election and learned that even if ink bleeds through your ballot, it would not impact the count.

Kathren Coleman, the former deputy recorder for Maricopa County, told ABC15 if a voter had any concerns or made any incorrect marks, voting centers would have provided them with a new ballot.

At 1 a.m. Wednesday morning, the Associated Press projected that former Vice President Joe Biden, a Democrat, would win Arizona, defeating President Donald Trump, who won the historically Republican-led state in 2016. Fox News Channel made a similar projection on Tuesday evening.

The last time Arizona voters approved a Democratic presidential nominee over the Republican nominee was Bill Clinton in 1996, according to the Associated Press.

ABC15 has alsolearned that a lawyer who is working with President Donald Trump's re-election campaign said the "sharpie ballots" concern could be one of their focus points in an attempt to flip the election results in Arizona.