Several voters in Maricopa County, the largest in Arizona, brought a lawsuit Wednesday against Democratic County Recorder Adrian Fontes, the county Board of Supervisors and others, complaining that the use of Sharpie permanent markers at some polling sites left ballots too damaged to be counted.
Similar rumors about Sharpies or other writing tools and ballots have circulated across the country, including in the city of Chicago and the states of Michigan, Massachusetts, and Connecticut, according to Reuters.
The outlet also reported Wednesday that a viral Facebook video shared by prominent Republicans had been labeled by the social media giant as “false information” and the hashtag #sharpiegate has since been blocked on the platform.
After an investigation was opened into the matter by Republican Attorney General Mark Brnovich in Arizona, county and election officials quickly worked to counter the Sharpiegate narrative.
Democratic Secretary of State Katie Hobbs — whose office oversees elections statewide — assured Arizona’s in-person voters that their regular ballot would be counted, no matter what kind of pen was used to fill it out.
Maricopa County officials had tweeted earlier that the markers are “not a problem for our tabulation equipment, and the offset columns on ballots ensure that bleed-through won’t impact [votes].”
According to the County Recorder and Elections Department’s website, a blue or black ballpoint pen or a Sharpie pen can be used to fill out a ballot, while pens with red or similarly-colored ink should not be used.
Maricopa County Elections Department spokesperson Erika Flores told Arizona Family on Wednesday that new equipment counts votes in such a way that bleed-throughs are not a problem.
“Voters at home may use ballpoint pens in black or blue ink or a Sharpie. Vote Centers use fine-tip Sharpies as they have the fastest-drying ink, therefore preventing smudges when put through the Vote Center tabulation equipment,” the Maricopa County Recorder’s “FAQ” page reads.
Nevertheless, the suit brought by Arizonans claims that the use of Sharpies might have prevented ballots from being counted by vote-tabulating machines.
Attorney Alexander Kolodin — who has tangled with Fontes previously — represents a voter identified as Laurie Aguilera, as well as 10 unidentified clients.
Aguilera had been given a Sharpie to fill out her ballot and said she “noticed the ink was bleeding through.” The suit claims that a machine failed to read her ballot and that poll workers would not provide her with a second or duplicate ballot. Aguilera believes her vote was not counted.
Kolodin said the group he represents seeks that voters be given the right to resubmit their ballots and acknowledgment that the use of the Sharpies was improper.
Aguilera and Kolodin’s case will go before a Maricopa County Superior Court Judge on Thursday afternoon.
Discarding of ballots filled out with Sharpies would take on heightened importance in Arizona, a traditionally red state that Fox News called for President Trump’s challenger, Joe Biden, placing him closer to the White House.
The president’s reelection campaign has maintained that Trump can win the state and demanded heightened transparency into the counting of ballots, leading to tense protests overnight.
Coincidentally, Sharpies are a brand of permanent marker that the president is famous for using.