Sharpie-gate: Maricopa County Attorney's office addresses use of marker for ballots

The office said that the manufacturer of the county's vote tabulation machines suggests using Sharpie markers to fill out ballots. 

Published: November 5, 2020 7:47pm

Updated: November 6, 2020 8:42am

Deputy Solicitor General at the Arizona Attorney General's Office Michael Catlett said in a Nov. 4 letter that their office had received hundreds of complaints about the use of Sharpie markers for ballots at Maricopa County election locations, with people conveying concerns that utilizing the writing implements could have led to the rejection, spoiling or cancellation of ballots.

The letter, sent to Director of Elections Day and Emergency Voting with the Maricopa County Elections Department Scott Jarrett, included questions about issues such as the extent to which Sharpies were supplied and used at voting places, how many ballots were rejected and how many were specifically rejected due to over-votes caused when ink passed through the paper onto the other side of the ballot. 

In a Nov. 5 response, the Maricopa County Attorney's office explained that the manufacturer of the county's vote tabulation machines suggests using Sharpie markers to fill out ballots. 

"Furthermore, Maricopa County's ballots are designed in such a way that any 'bleed through' caused by the ink cannot create false votes or cause a voter's intended vote to be miscounted," the response says. "Specifically, the ovals in the front of the ballot are staggered from those on the back of the ballot so that even if bleed through should occur, there is no impact on any race."

"No ballots were rejected at voting centers, for over-votes or any other reason," the response noted. "The vote tabulation machines are programmed to alert voters when their ballots contain over-votes or stray marks that might lead to their votes for certain contests not being tabulated. Those voters are then provided the opportunity to spoil their ballot and vote a new one."

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