As if the 2022 election cycle isn’t off to a controversial enough start -think attempts to ban electronic tabulator and voting by mail- voters in Maricopa County now have to deal with contradictory advice on what pen to use when voting in person.

For nearly two weeks, Maricopa County elections officials have repeatedly said that voters may bring their own pen to voting centers (provided it is blue or black ink) although the county’s preferred quick-drying Pentel pen will be available for every voter who comes into a voting center.

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The county’s elections department even created a video emphasizing the importance of ensuring the ink is dry before inserting an in-person ballot into a tabulation machine. (The same concern does not apply to early voting ballots which typically remain inside an envelope for a few days, ensuring adequate time for the ink to dry before being fed into a tabulator.)

The video was intended to explain to voters why a quick-drying pen is preferred for in-person voting. Such as the fact ball point pens can smudge on a ballot or on the inside of tabulation machines, causing delays.

Yet the pen issue and the video effort did not set well with Kelli Ward, the chair of the Arizona Republican Party. According to Ward, the video is “embarrassing and infantile.”

Ward also tweeted last week that voters can use their own pens when filling out their ballots. She also alleges Richer has caused some type of “unnecessary & ridiculous problems” by providing a quick-dry pen at voting centers.

Ward’s tweet does not explain what fault there is to Maricopa County’s effort, nor what harm there can be in trying to process ballots in a timely and accurate manner. A similar tweet was made last week by a candidate running to be the Republican nominee for Secretary of State, Arizona’s top election official.

According to the candidate, they “will be taking my own blue or black ballpoint ink pen to the polls when I vote in person.” But the messages by Ward and others which imply there is something nefarious with Maricopa County’s suggested pen actually run counter to a message from Eric H. Spencer, an attorney who often represents Republican establishment interests.

The Maricopa County Republican Committee (MCRC) reported that Spencer downplayed any concern over the county’s choice of preferred pen.


“In short, the County has confidence in the Pentel selection and our voters should not necessarily be alarmed when they see this pen at the voting location,” the message states.

Some voters have assumed the motive behind the Pentel recommendation is to avoid the ballot bleed-through experienced by the use of the heavier Sharpies provided during in-person voting during the 2020 General Election.

In that case, county elections officials were aware of isolated problems occurring at the county’s 175 voting centers, including some ballots which were printed askew which could not be read by the tabulation machines. There were also voters and poll workers who seemed confused about how to address errors reported by the tabulation machines, which appeared to be tied to Sharpies bleeding through the ballots. There is just no evidence that those ballots were not accurately tabulated in the end.

Even one person tweeted on July 27 that she “spoke with a veteran poll worker here in Maricopa Co who shared with me the felt tip pens being distributed are bleeding through the paper.”

But reports of tabulation problems due to ink bleed was disputed again this year by elections officials across the state who explain that the ovals for contests listed on the front of ballots is offset from the ovals for contest on the back page of the ballot.

Anyone in Maricopa County with questions about voting in-person for one of the Aug. 2 primaries can contact 602-506-1511 or obtain information at

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