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Media Rejects 'Conspiracy' in Arizona

'Sharpiegate' theory comes to life on social media
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Nov 4, 2020 6:30 PM CST

(Newser) – As states across the US release vote totals for the presidential election, some social media users are falsely claiming that ballots are being invalidated in Arizona. The supposed culprit: Sharpie markers, the AP reports. In what's come to be known as #Sharpiegate, social media posts suggest that election officials in Maricopa County provided voters with Sharpie pens, which interfered with ballots being recorded, specifically those for President Trump. Arizona election officials say that voting with a Sharpie would have no impact on the votes being recorded by tabulation machines, and if there was an issue, there is a process that would keep the ballots from being canceled out. Here's a look at the facts:

  • Claim: Votes were eliminated in Arizona because people were made to use Sharpie pens to mark their ballots. This caused the tabulation machine to cancel the vote.
  • The facts: As Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden was declared the winner of the presidential vote in the Republican stronghold of Arizona, social media posts circulated falsely suggesting that votes for Trump were canceled because people were told to use Sharpies to fill out their ballots.

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Arizona election officials confirmed that Sharpies were used in voting, but they said that would not invalidate a ballot. The Maricopa County Elections Department tweeted on Election Day that voting centers use Sharpies so that ink does not smudge when ballots are counted. Other media outlets, including Reuters and USA Today, agree that the "Sharpiegate" claims are unsubstantiated. (Then there's that other "Sharpiegate.")


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