Arizona elections officials explain why Sharpie complaints are pointless

Nov 4, 2020, 2:16 PM | Updated: Nov 5, 2020, 7:33 am
(Pixabay Photo)...
(Pixabay Photo)
(Pixabay Photo)

PHOENIX – Arizona elections officials say there was nothing nefarious about providing Sharpie markers at polling stations, but the state’s attorney general is asking questions about their use.

Maricopa County Recorder Adrian Fontes chuckled at the idea of a “Sharpie-gate” conspiracy to impact the election, because the permanent markers are ideal for the job.

“Sharpies are by design part of the system that we brought into being” because of how well tabulation machines read their fast-drying ink, he told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s The Mike Broomhead Show on Wednesday.

“Does that mean that sometimes there’s bleed-through? Yes. Does that have an impact on your vote? No,” he added.

Fontes, who runs the elections office of the state’s largest county, said one of the security measures of in-person voting is that machines will catch errant marks.

Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, the state’s top elections official, told The Mike Broomhead Show on Wednesday that poll workers would not give voters pens that would invalidate ballots.

“And people who are voting from home use Sharpies all the time,” she said.

Fontes and Hobbs both said potential bleed-throughs from the heavy markers can’t cause mismarks because of how the ballots are laid out.

“It’s not going to transfer to a bubble on the other side of the ballot,” Hobbs said.

Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich, a Republican, waded into the issue despite the assurances of Democrats Hobbs and Fontes.

Brnovich said his office received hundreds of complaints about Sharpies, leading him to send a letter with questions about the markers to the Maricopa County Elections Department.

The letter included a question about why some ballots were marked as “canceled” when voters checked their status on the secretary of state’s website.

Fontes told KTAR News that ballots might be marked as “canceled” for voters who requested an early ballot but voted at the polls on Election Day.

“Our system is automatically going to cancel the old ballot because we can’t just have ballots floating around out there,” he said. “This is a security feature of our system, and you will have that first ballot flagged as canceled.”

Fontes said there could be a lag from when a verified vote status is changed online from canceled to counted.

He added that Maricopa County voters should only use to check the status of their ballot.

On Wednesday afternoon, Hobbs addressed the canceled ballot issue on social media, with an explanation that echoed Fontes.

“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,” she wrote in a Twitter thread. “This is because the early ballot is canceled so the ballot cast-in person can be counted.”

On Election Day, the Maricopa County Elections Department posted a video to social media explaining why Sharpies are provided at voting centers.

Some commenters weren’t sold and posted screenshots of ballots marked as “canceled” online and for some reason drawing a connection to the use of Sharpies.

A lawsuit was also filed Wednesday against Fontes and the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors alleging that votes were disqualified because of Sharpie usage.

The suit was filed on behalf of Laurie Aguilera, a Maricopa County voter who said she was issued a Sharpie to mark up her ballot on Election Day and that ink bled through her ballot, causing it to become invalid.

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Ali Vetnar contributed to this report.

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Arizona elections officials explain why Sharpie complaints are pointless