Remember scantron tests, the standardized testing form you had to use in high school?
The instructions were relatively clear: fill out the bubble entirely using only a standard No. 2 pencil — no pens and definitely no Sharpies. Once you were done and the tests were collected, they were put into a machine that scanned (hence, scantron) the bubbles and tabulated your score.
If you’re an adult of voting age, you might get flashbacks to standardized high school testing come election time.
Ballots in many states, including California, often utilize scan sheets on their official ballots for voters to mark down their ballot selections.
But there’s one big difference from the tests from high school to your ballot in the year 2022. When filling out your ballot, you gotta use ink.
If you’re voting absentee or at an official polling place, here’s what you’re supposed to do.
Using a pen with black or blue ink, completely fill in the oval next to your response on the ballot. Do not use red ink and definitely don’t fill out more than one selection.
But what about Sharpie-style markers?
The markers were a point of contention for some conspiracy theorists who claimed use of a Sharpie would invalidate a person’s ballot. During the 2020 election, some people made the baseless claim that Trump supporters were encouraged to use Sharpies so their ballots wouldn’t be counted.
Both the Arizona Secretary of State and the Arizona Citizens Clean Elections Commission later debunked that claim.
You might be surprised to know that Sharpies actually work really, really well on your ballot. In fact, according to the Santa Clara County Registrar’s Office, a Sharpie is the preferred instrument for filling out your ballot.
The ink from a Sharpie marker is dark, fills in the oval clearly and dries much faster than a pen.
If you’re worried about a pen or marker bleeding through — fear not. If there are multiple sides to your ballot, the ovals won’t line up on each side so you don’t have to worry about a selection on one side of the paper affecting a response on the other side.
If your voting location doesn’t have Sharpies, you can bring your own, depending on local guidance.
So when it comes down to filling out your ballots, please put down your No. 2 pencils. Sharpie is the way to go.