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Michigan ballots marked with Sharpie pens were not invalidated

November 5, 2020 GMT


CLAIM: Voting machines in Michigan do not count ballots marked with Sharpie markers.

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. Election officials in Michigan confirmed that ballots marked with both blue and black sharpie are counted.

THE FACTS: Claims are circulating on social media that poll workers gave voters Sharpies to mark their ballots, but voting machines would not properly count those ballots. 

A social media post about Michigan claimed, “Markers don’t scan! Voter fraud!”

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Another post said, “If you were given a black sharpie marker to fill out your ballot...The machines will successfully count your ballot but not your vote, because the machines only detect black pen ink!”

The posts included a Michigan hotline number voters should call to report their polling location. It was unclear who was behind the phone number.

But Tracy Wimmer, a spokesperson for the Michigan Secretary of State’s office, told AP the claims in the posts were false. “Blue and black sharpie is perfectly fine,” she wrote in a text message. “To say otherwise is misinformation.”

Lisa Posthumus Lyons, the clerk for Michigan’s Kent County, took to Twitter on Wednesday afternoon to clear up confusion over Sharpie votes in her county, which includes Grand Rapids.

“We’ve recv’d questions abt Sharpie markers used to vote at #Kent County polls,” she wrote. “Sharpies are the preferred device of our election equipment vendor. Black or blue pen also acceptable for proper tabulating. Bleed through is not a concern as ballots are programmed to ignore bleed.”

Posthumus Lyons said in the same tweet thread that not every county in Michigan uses the same equipment. “Those using Dominion are recommended to use Sharpies.”

Wimmer confirmed to the AP that voters given Sharpies at any Michigan polling place should not be concerned the voting machine did not read it.  

The Associated Press has debunked similar false claims about ballots marked with Sharpies in Arizona that were untrue.

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Alex Stamos, director of the Stanford University Election Observatory, told reporters in a Wednesday webinar that misleading claims about voters being disenfranchising with sharpies began in Chicago and then surfaced in Arizona. 

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This is part of The Associated Press’ ongoing effort to fact-check misinformation that is shared widely online, including work with Facebook to identify and reduce the circulation of false stories on the platform.

Here’s more information on Facebook’s fact-checking program: https://www.facebook.com/help/1952307158131536