February 3, 2023

#SharpieGate: Debunked conspiracy theory leads to scary situation in Arizona

Donald Trump’s supporters are spreading a conspiracy theory involving Sharpies in an attempt to stop votes for Joe Biden from being counted.

As the Democratic candidate seems poised to overtake President Trump’s lead in several states, Trump and his supporters have demanded that votes stop being counted across the country.

Well, everywhere except Arizona, where Trump supporters are calling for the exact opposite.

They’re pushing the #SharpieGate conspiracy theory. Unlike #PizzaGate, it doesn’t involve a satanic pedophile ring hidden in a pizza shop’s basement. Instead, the false claim is that only Trump supporters were handed Sharpies at polls because they bleed through ballots, which causes voting machines to invalidate them. 

None of this is true. There is no #SharpieGate. It’s misinformation.

Still, the conspiracy spread fast on social media. Related tweets received thousands of likes and retweets. Major conservative YouTube personalities, like Steven Crowder, reported on #SharpieGate. It even spread on TikTok.

Here’s the truth. All of the votes in Arizona are being counted. Arizona election officials put out several statements debunking the conspiracy theory, noting that felt-tip pens or markers will not invalidate a vote.

Regardless of this fact, a large crowd of Trump supporters protested outside the Maricopa County Elections Department on Wednesday night as poll workers counted votes. 

The situation became so dire that the vote count had to be delayed. Authorities escorted poll workers and watchers inside the building, and watching media away from the facility, for safety reasons.

And, of course, Facebook Groups are playing a major role in spreading #SharpieGate misinformation. 

A conservative Facebook Group called “Stop the Steal” gained hundreds of thousands of members in just two days. Members demanded vote counts be stopped in several states — except Arizona, where they said they wanted their Sharpie-marked votes counted. Facebook eventually shut the group down.