Last Updated on November 30, 2020
Following an election fraud expert vindicating National File’s reporting during Monday’s hearing in Arizona, and having discovered multiple new inconsistencies in the official explanations, National File is issuing a fact check on the Arizona SharpieGate controversy.
The hashtag #SharpieGate went viral during the presidential election in Arizona, with multiple claims that Sharpies would invalidate the ballots of Trump voters, and has been subject to fact checks by various organizations. National File can reveal that within the fact checks, media commentary, statements from election officials and voting machine companies, there are serious inconsistencies within their stories.
In a viral video from Maricopa County, one woman explained how she saw the ballots of two people ahead of her get rejected when using Sharpies, but that hers went through fine using a ballpoint pen. After she began handing out ballpoint pens, the sheriffs were called by poll workers and she was ordered to stop handing them out.
Fact checkers then supposedly “debunked” this viral video. Politifact, Snopes, and Reuters, among others, highlighted a video produced on October 24th by Maricopa County election officials, explaining that Sharpies could be used, and were in fact recommended due to their ability to dry quickly. They also explained that new tabulation machines could read them, and they had a new ballot design that prevented bleedthroughs.
Did you know we use Sharpies in the Vote Centers so the ink doesn’t smudge as ballots are counted onsite? New offset columns on the ballots means bleed through won’t impact your vote! Find a location before the polls close at 7 p.m. today at https://t.co/8YEmXbWyRL. pic.twitter.com/KKG2O8rQhf
— Maricopa County Elections Department (@MaricopaVote) November 3, 2020
Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, a Democrat, said in an interview on Fox that “nobody in a polling place… [would] give you a pen to mark your ballot that would invalidate your ballot. They knew what they were doing, and those ballots will be counted.”
— Zachary Petrizzo (@ZTPetrizzo) November 4, 2020
However, there are a number of problems with these explanations. In the first instance, the initial viral video and further claims of Trump voters were not addressed. Specifically: If Sharpies were the recommended pen, why were there many instances of votes being initially rejected when they were used, regardless of any plan to properly tabulate rejected ballots afterwards? Why was the woman stopped from handing out ballpoint pens?
During Monday’s hearing on election integrity in Arizona, Trump campaign lawyer Rudy Giuliani discussed a witness testifying that “all day she saw election officials constantly pressing the green button when somebody was voting,” which expert witness Colonel Phil Waldron explained was when a ballot has been rejected. “The green button was to say “okay there’s an error, so go ahead and push ‘cast ballot’,” and it punches that into an error file that can be adjudicated by the election administrator,” Waldron said.
Secretary of State Hobbs also seemingly slipped up during an interview on CNN at the time. Hobbs said that “even if the machines can’t read them for some reason, a marker bled through to the other side, we have ways to count them.” This contradicts the Maricopa County video and other sources that argue that bleedthroughs are impossible, due to their new ballot designs.
In fact, in an email dated two days prior to the video’s release, Maricopa County’s Elections Assistant Director Kelly Dixon acknowledged that there were issues with the Sharpies. “Next, we’ve heard you and we know you’re hearing issues and concerns about the Sharpie Markers,” Dixon wrote in the email. “Starting tomorrow, 10/23, and through 11/2, we are asking that Clerks hand voters BALLPOINT PENS rather than Markers.”
Yet for some reason, Dixon then ordered that Sharpies be used on election day. “We NEED to use Markers on Election Day, but for now and through 11/2, hand voters a Ballpoint Pen. You have plenty of pens in your supplies right now,” she said.
BUSTED: This internal email from Maricopa County, AZ talks about "Issues and Concerns" with markers but says they have to give voters markers anyway instead of ballpoint pens on Election Day
— Patrick Howley (@HowleyReporter) November 18, 2020
During our investigation into SharpieGate, National File uncovered a video from Pima County, with officials telling voters that they should not use sharpies or any permanent markers when casting their ballot. “Use a black or blue ballpoint pen, no sharpies, to fill in the ovals next to your candidates name,” the official in the video says.
Critics responded to this article by claiming that Pima County and Maricopa County use different election equipment. This is true. Maricopa County uses machines from Dominion Voting, while Pima and every other county but one in Arizona uses machines from Election Systems & Software.
Yet in the Reuters SharpieGate fact check article that supposedly debunked the “conspiracy theory” about the Arizona election, they reveal that both companies stated their tabulators would read Sharpies without any problems, meaning that their should have been no real reason for the inconsistency between the counties, other than the ballot design already discussed.
There are many further claims of electoral misconduct in Arizona. Ballot counters were discovered abandoned at a strip mall, and the Chair of Maricopa County GOP was forced to resign due to her failure to sign the Certificate of Accuracy for the voting machines.