Illinois Midterm Elections

Sharpies, Felt-Tip Pens Are the Preferred Way to Fill Out Paper Ballots in Illinois, Officials Say

As Election Day voting in Illinois continues, some voters have expressed concerns that the felt-tip or "Sharpie" pens they were given to use by poll workers as writing instruments on paper ballots was resulting in ink bleeding through.

However, according to the Illinois State Board of Elections, those kinds of pens are the "preferred ballot marking method for many voting systems," across the state of Illinois, including in Chicago.

"There is no need to be concerned about the use of sharpies in polling places," the Illinois SBE tweeted earlier Tuesday. They have been tested and approved to be used on these devices."

The Illinois SBE goes on to say that even if it appears that bleed through has occurred, it will not cause an issue. "The ballots are intentionally designed so that bleed through does not cause a problem," the board said. "The target ovals on one side don't overlap on the other side."

An update from the Chicago Board of Elections update Tuesday noted that it had received several similar complaints from voters regarding bleed through, but stressed that such an event does not lead to a spoiled ballot.

"While there might be bleed through onto the other side of the ballot," said Max Bever, Director of Public Information at the Chicago Board of Elections, "it's not lining up with a vote" on the other side. If there is an issue, if there's an overcoat or trademarks or other things that are concerning," a machine would spit the ballot back out after it's been inserted, he said.

However, Bever did say the Chicago Board of Elections had receive some complaints that the felt-tip pen used by voters didn't just bleed through onto the other side -- it bled onto a separate ballot page, known as "Ballot B."

According to Bever, voters at Chicago precincts are given two paper ballots: Ballot A, which contains Amendment 1, candidates at the federal, state, and county levels, State Board of Review candidates, public questions and appellate and circuit court judges, and Ballot B, which contains retention judges, including the Supreme Court judges, and any local government professionals.

According to Bever, some voters filled out Ballot A while Ballot B was underneath, causing the Sharpie or felt-tip pen to bleed over onto the second page.

"From all cases that I can see, the voter was provided a new ballot." That's because, according to Bever, "if a ballot gets damaged in any way, it ultimately gets spoiled." Those spoiled ballots are then stored in a separate envelope and sealed on Election night Bever said.

Bever also noted that ballpoint pens can leave residue that gum up voter machines, and that pencils markings are not recognized by voting machines. That's why, Bever said, voters are asked to only use the voting instrument provided to them by a poll worker.

Read More: How to Get Live Illinois Election Results as Votes Are Counted

"Do not bring your own voting instrument from home," Bever said. "Please use the felt-tip pen provided to you by poll workers. Even if it does have a bit of bleed through, it will not present an issue on your ballots."

"But please," Bever continued, "do not put ballot B directly under ballot A if you are voting in person today."

According to the Illinois State Board of Elections, polls will remain open until 7 p.m.

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