Late on election night, rumors began to spread regarding the use of Sharpies on official voting ballots. Social media users were falsely claiming that Arizona ballots were being invalidated if they were filled out in Sharpie pen, according to the Associated Press (AP).
The conspiracy became known as “#Sharpiegate” across social media platforms and placed claims that Maricopa county election officials had provided voters with Sharpie pens, interfering with ballot results. However, according to AP, Arizona election officials stated, "Voting with a Sharpie would have no impact on the votes being recorded by tabulation machines.”
Multiple county and state officials around Arizona emphasized that “there is no merit to the Sharpie concerns,” but they still encouraged voters to use felt tip pens for ballots and referenced that the ink dries faster and is more legible. Confusion, conspiracy and misinformation continued to mount, however, following officials' promotion of felt tip pens.
“Poll workers are not going to give voters pens that are going to invalidate their ballot,” Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs told KTAR News.
Hobbs also publicly tweeted a response to the “#Sharpiegate” allegations on Nov. 4. The tweet stated that all in person ballots will be counted regardless of the type of pen used by voters, even those filled out in Sharpie.
According to The Washington Post and Secretary Hobbs, "Ballots in Maricopa County were arranged so that if a Sharpie did bleed through the page, it would not cause an unreadable mark on the other side."
Furthermore, Arizona has an adjudication process for counting and recording ballots that cannot be read through regularly used tabulators.