PHOENIX — It didn't take long for the rumor to get started, fueled by a viral video of a woman saying she filled out her Arizona ballot using a Sharpie and the voting machine didn't read it so her vote wasn't counted.
The combination was irresistible to a partisan, polarized Internet obsessed with an onion skin thin-presidential election: The story took off.
12 News received scores of calls, emails and social media messages from voters who believed their votes might not have been counted.
The only problem: The facts weren't actually facts. Here are verified, actual answers.
Q: Can ballots filled out with a Sharpie or other felt-tip marker be read by voting machines?
A: Yes. The machines are designed to read that kind of ink. In fact, Erika Flores of the Maricopa County Elections Office told us that the office tested numerous kinds of pens to make sure the machines processed the return. A fine-tip Sharpie test dried the fastest -- necessary for the voting machines to be able to quickly process the ballot. In fact, here's an excerpt from a letter sent out today by Clint Hickman, the Republican chair of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors and co-signed by Steve Gallardo, the board's sole Democrat.
[S]harpies do not invalidate ballots. We did extensive testing on multiple different types of ink with our new vote tabulation equipment. Sharpies are recommended by the manufacturer because they provide the fastest-drying ink.
Q: Will my ink-filled oval bleed through to the other side?
A: Yes. Because it's initially wet ink and the ballot paper isn't all that thick. But that's OK, because a) the machines are designed to only read what's in an oval and b) the ovals from each side are offset. Here's another excerpt from that letter:
The offset columns on ballots ensure that any bleed-through will not impact your vote. For this reason, sharpies were provided to in-person voters on Election Day. People who voted by mail could use sharpies, or blue or black pens.
Q: Is this a sudden development that was kept secret from voters?
A: No. The county elections department has been communicating this for several weeks (here's a video they made about it). We heard this concern from a viewer on October 24 and ran a story about it October 26.
Q: Will my Sharpie-made ballot be counted?
A: Yes. Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs has stated publicly today -- over and over -- that every ballot will be counted.
Q: I also heard something about people who filled ballots out with Sharpies checking on their ballot status and seeing it says "Canceled."
A: This is the conflation of two different issues. The first is the aforementioned Sharpie issue, which has nothing to do with why a ballot might say "Canceled." Hobbs tweeted that voters who check online and see the status of their early or mail-in ballot as “CANCELED” might see that if they opted to vote in person instead. She explains if a person requests a mail-in ballot, but opts to vote in-person, their mail-in ballot will be canceled out because a person cannot have two ballots.