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There has been quite a bit of speculation on whether voters should have used Sharpies to cast their ballots in Maricopa County.

Social media posts being circulated in the Phoenix area are saying that if anyone used a Sharpie to fill out their ballot, their votes could be tossed.

We received several messages on Election Day and into Wednesday that many polling places offered Sharpies to those voting in person. However, there were reports that some Sharpie-filled ballots were not counted, while others who used ballpoint pen had no issues.

Video of voters complaining about poll workers handing them sharpies instead of pens:


To set the record straight, Right Journalism spoke to Erika Flores, spokesperson for the Maricopa County Elections Department.

Flores said voters can use one of three types of writing utensils to cast their ballots:

Black pen Blue pen Sharpie

You read that correctly. Sharpies are allowed. That’s because the new tabulation equipment counts votes in a such a way that bleed-throughs are not a problem.

Not only are Sharpies accepted when filling out a ballot in Maricopa County, but they are also preferred. That’s because Sharpies have the fastest drying ink.

The one color you do need to worry about is red ink. The tabulation equipment can’t read red ink.


Election judges are now instructing voters to dab the sharpie vertically once to prevent bleed through. Regardless, there have been no issues reading ballots filled out with Sharpies. Even if a Sharpie did create a large ink blot that made the ballot difficult to read, there is a process in which a judge reviews the ballot to determine the voter’s intent. The same process occurs if a voter circles or underlines the candidate.

Sharpies with the same ballot paper were used in the primaries too, but no issues were reported then, officials said.

So officially this isn’t voter fraud.