Yes, you can use a Sharpie to fill out your ballot in some states

Sharpies are recommended by many voting machine manufacturers over ink pens because they dry quickly and the machines can read their ink better.

With the midterm elections underway on Tuesday, Nov. 8, some voters are concerned about what kind of writing instrument they need to use to fill out their ballots.

Several people on social media expressed worries about receiving Sharpie-brand markers or pens at their polling places over fears that they could bleed through the ballot and invalidate a person’s vote

Some people have even claimed the markers are a sign of election fraud, suggesting voters received Sharpies in order to invalidate their ballots. 

THE QUESTION

Can you use a Sharpie on your ballot?

THE SOURCES

THE ANSWER

This is true.

Yes, you can use a Sharpie on your ballot in several states. Many voting machine manufacturers recommend them over ink pens because they dry quickly and the machines read their ink better. 

WHAT WE FOUND

Several states and counties say you can use a Sharpie marker or pen to mark your ballot without invalidating it. 

In fact, Sharpies are recommended by many ballot tabulator machine manufacturers over ink pens because they dry quickly and the machines can read their ink better, election officials say. 

“If you’ve been given a felt-tip pen today while voting, don’t be concerned. Many voting systems prefer them as a ballot marking device,” the Illinois State Board of Elections wrote in a tweet on Election Day.

Some people may be concerned about Sharpies bleeding through to the other side of their ballot. But the Michigan Department of State and Dominion Voting Systems, an electronic voting company, say ballots are designed so any bleedthrough does not touch or come near a voting area of the other side of the ballot. That means any bleedthrough wouldn’t affect the parts of your ballot that are counted. 

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If a ballot does have issues that impact its ability to be scanned, it can be hand counted, duplicated or reviewed by election officials, according to the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), which is part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Many states have laws in place that allow ballots with bleedthrough or stray marks to be counted, as long as election officials can still determine the voter’s intent. 

The claims about Sharpies as a sign of election fraud are unfounded. Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich launched an investigation into the use of Sharpies during the 2020 election, but ultimately found that it “did not result in disenfranchisement for Arizona voters.”  

No state or county requires that voters use Sharpies to fill out ballots, and people who have concerns can request a regular pen. For example, election officials in California’s Santa Clara and San Bernardino counties say on their websites that you may also use a pen with blue or black ink to mark your ballot instead of a Sharpie. 

Though many counties and states recommend using Sharpie pens on ballots, some states do have specific rules that advise against the practice. For example, New Hampshire says voters should only use a number 2 pencil, and not a Sharpie or marker, to fill out absentee ballots. 

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