Maricopa County Attorney sends cease-and-desist letter to GOP candidate over pen thefts

File photo of Maricopa County Attorney General Rachel Mitchell
File photo of Maricopa County Attorney General Rachel Mitchell(Arizona's Family)
Published: Aug. 2, 2022 at 1:20 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5/AP) -- Maricopa County Attorney Rachel Mitchell has sent a letter asking a county supervisor candidate to stop telling voters to steal pens being provided at polling sites as in-person voting gets underway statewide. Mitchell issued a cease-and-desist to GOP candidate Gail Golec Tuesday morning.

Golec, who is running for a seat on District 2 of the county’s Board of Supervisors, is spreading an unfounded conspiracy claim that the use of Pentel felt-tip pens bleeds through and provides “ghosts votes,” thereby changing the outcome of the election. In response to Mitchell’s letter, she said that her “Intention is to Protect Our Vote, not encourage you to steal pens.”

Arizona’s Family and numerous media outlets, including the Associated Press, previously reported on “#SharpieGate,” where social media posts suggested that election officials in Maricopa County provided voters with Sharpie pens, which interfered with ballots being recorded, specifically those for President Donald Trump. This latest misinformation attempt came in response to an announcement by election officials that they were switching to Pentel brand felt-tip pens on Election Day. It should be noted that Golec has been endorsed by both former President Donald Trump and My Pillow CEO Mike Lindell.

Pentel pens were selected for use because they have fast-drying ink when compared to ballpoint pens. Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer on Twitter urged those voting in Tuesday’s primary to “PLEASE PLEASE” use the provided pens to prevent machine problems and keep voting running smoothly. Still, some social media users and prominent Republicans in the state this week encouraged voters to defy that guidance. Republican State Rep. Shawnna Bolick, who is running for secretary of state in Tuesday’s election, tweeted that she planned to bring her own ballpoint pen for in-person voting, while Kelli Ward, chair of the state’s Republican Party, encouraged her Twitter followers to “use whatever pen you want” but ensure their ballot is dry.

Richer said voters who bring their own blue or black pen for Tuesday’s election will not be turned away, but encouraged voters to use those provided.

“Just as we tell voters they shouldn’t use red pens, shouldn’t use pencil, shouldn’t use crayon, we are telling voters that – to help us ensure an accurate and smooth election – you should use the Pentel pen if you are voting in-person on election day,” Richer told The Associated Press in an email.

Richer said the county switched from Sharpies to Pentel pens “after many tests” because while both have quick-drying ink, the Pentel pens cause less bleed-through on the ballot paper. Even though offset columns on the county’s ballots prevent bleeding ink from affecting the vote counting process, even for two-sided ballots, the bleed-through from Sharpies caused many poll observers and online critics to raise alarm in 2020.

Some social media users this week expressed confusion at why early voters in Maricopa County are permitted to use any blue or black pen, while Election Day voters are instructed to use the felt-tip pens only. The answer: All early ballots, whether submitted in-person, by mail, or by drop box, are enclosed in envelopes and sent to central tabulation after processing, so they have sufficient time to dry before being counted, Richer said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.