Voting Problems Caused in Chicago by Sharpies Quickly Solved on Election Day

Voting Problems Caused in Chicago by Sharpies Quickly Solved on Election Day
People cast their ballots at the United Center on Election Day in Chicago, Ill., on Nov. 3, 2020. (Kamil Krzaczynski/AFP via Getty Images)
Mark Tapscott

Chicago Board of Elections officials quickly ended a potentially serious problem discovered early Nov. 3, amid widespread reports of tabulation machines rejecting ballots filled out with Sharpie felt-tip markers.

“The polls opened at 6 a.m. Within minutes, Election Central (the command post at the Board of Elections) was receiving calls from precincts reporting that the Sharpies were bleeding visibly through the paper of the ballots, leading to ballot rejections for overvoting and spoiled ballots,” Chicago attorney Joseph Morris told The Epoch Times on Nov. 8.

“An easy test at the board’s headquarters promptly showed the truth of the matter. The word was immediately flashed to all precincts: Stop using the distributed Sharpies and start using regular ballpoints,” Morris said.

While poll workers lent voters their personal ballpoint pens, Morris said, the election “board staff got fresh, non-bleeding pens out everywhere soon enough. Most precincts also had at least one touch-screen voting machine, and voters could use those machines without trouble.”

Morris is one of 20 hearing officers contracted by the board to hear ballot challenges. He was the hearing officer in 2019, when the sufficiency of signatures on Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s candidacy petition was challenged. He also was the hearing officer in 2011 when former White House chief of staff Rahm Emmanuel’s residency as a Chicago mayoral candidate was challenged.

Morris told The Epoch Times that no one has ever sought to influence his decisions in hearing cases such as those of Emmanuel and Lightfoot.

“No instructions, not a whisper, were ever given to me about how to decide a case. I have been left completely independent in every case on how to handle the hearings and how to decide the questions the cases present," Morris said. "The board gives me a hearing room, a clerk, and a court reporter, and leaves everything else to me.”

Chicago’s election board was fundamentally reformed in the late 1980s, according to Morris, and has since been a model of honest voting and tabulation.

William Kresse, one of the board’s three members, is “a lawyer and academic specialist in financial and other frauds,” Morris noted. “Kresse teaches at Governors State University, where he's known by the sobriquet of ‘Professor Fraud.’ He's also on the Department of Defense faculty for training fraud examiners in the military services' criminal investigation units.”

Sharpies in Arizona

The prompt response of Chicago officials was in sharp contrast to that of election authorities in Arizona, where Sharpies were also required to be used by voters in that state’s largest jurisdiction, Maricopa County, prompting a lawsuit by resident Laurie Aquilera, who is represented by attorneys with the Public Interest Legal Foundation (PILF).

Aquilera said in the suit that she “was provided with a Sharpie by the poll workers with which to mark her ballot. Plaintiff completed her ballot with the provided Sharpie. While completing it, she noticed that the ink was bleeding through.”

Aquilera claimed she had never previously been required by Arizona workers to mark a ballot using a Sharpie pen when voting in Maricopa, which encompasses much of Phoenix.

“Plaintiff fed her ballot into the ballot box. The ballot box failed to properly register her vote, causing a poll-worker to cancel her ballot in the presence of Plaintiff,” the suit said.

“Plaintiff requested a new ballot but, upon information and belief, upon consultation with the Maricopa County Recorder’s Office, the poll workers refused to provide her with one.”

In a statement filed in connection with Aquilera’s litigation, Joshua Banko, a poll worker, described the response of Maricopa election officials as the Sharpie problem became evident.

Banko, who is a resident of Scottsdale, said that “starting at the very beginning of the day, voters began experiencing problems feeding their ballots into the tabulation machine. This caused significant delays in voting and lasted throughout the day.”

Banko said the device was “telling me that it was detecting errant or extraneous lines outside of the voting section of the ballot. However, in my presence, many voters showed their ballot to the elections marshal and the site inspector to demonstrate that there were no errant marks on their ballot.

“Ballots that were rejected by one machine were tried on the other tabulation machine and in different orientations, always without success. For these reasons, I believe that the issue was caused by the use of Sharpies at the polling location.”

Banko estimated that 80 percent of the ballots at his polling station that were filled out using Sharpies were rejected. His Election Day duties began at 5:30 a.m. and continued until late in the evening, he said.

A spokesman for the Maricopa County Board of Elections couldn't be reached by The Epoch Times for comment.

Former Vice President Joe Biden was declared by media outlets the winner of Arizona’s 11 electoral votes early in last week’s voting, but the president has steadily closed the margin as counting has continued..

Trump is seeking recounts or filing litigation in a half-dozen other states and as late as the evening of Nov. 5 said he expects ultimately to be declared the winner.

Contact Mark Tapscott at
Mark Tapscott is an award-winning investigative editor and reporter who covers Congress, national politics, and policy for The Epoch Times. Mark was admitted to the National Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Hall of Fame in 2006 and he was named Journalist of the Year by CPAC in 2008. He was a consulting editor on the Colorado Springs Gazette’s Pulitzer Prize-winning series “Other Than Honorable” in 2014.