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VERIFY: No, putting a stray mark on your ballot won't disqualify it from being counted

Whether you do or somebody else accidentally marks it, your ballot will still be counted. Our Verify team talked to election officials for more.

WASHINGTON — Elections are right around the corner, and making sure your voice is heard is important. That's why the Verify team is here to separate fact from fiction and get to the bottom of viral social media claims.

Claims about mail-in voting, and how to properly fill out your ballot, have been all over social media. One post on Twitter and Facebook this week warned upcoming voters to be careful of not letting a poll worker put a mark on your ballot -- according to the post, anything like a check-mark or even star on your ballot could lead to it being disqualified and uncounted.

So, let's Verify.

QUESTION: Can stray markings disqualify a ballot?

ANSWER: No, your ballot will still be able to be counted.

SOURCES: Election officials in DC, Maryland and Virginia.


A spokesperson for Virginia elections said a poll worker may write on a ballot depending on precinct operations. But she does confirm that this marking will not disqualify a ballot.

In the District, the executive director for the DC Board of Elections agreed.

“Stray marks are not a problem on a ballot," they said, "The ballot will be counted."

A spokesperson for Maryland’s Board of Elections said that it’s unlikely markings would cause a problem. However, if there was some sort of issue that kept the ballot from scanning in the voting machine, you can also get a replacement ballot.

So we can Verify that no, your ballot will not be disqualified if it has stray markings on it, whether they are made by you or someone else.

Credit: wusa9

Does it matter what type of pen you use?

Our Verify researchers contacted election officials in all three jurisdictions. 

"Blue or black pens are both acceptable,” a Virginia Department of Elections spokesperson said.

So what would happen if someone used another color besides blue or black?

"If there is any issue with a ballot being read by a machine, the ballot is hand-counted,” a Virginia Department of Elections spokesperson said. 

In Maryland, Nikki Charlson, deputy administrator of the Maryland State Board of Elections confirmed that ballots are valid with any pen color or pencil.

Black, blue or any dark-colored inks are preferable. 

Certain ink colors may not be able to be read by their scanners and in that case, Charlson said a “bipartisan pair of election officials” will copy the information to another ballot with a black ink pen, so that the ballot can be counted.

RELATED: VERIFY: Do you have to use a black ink pen on mail-in ballots in DC, Maryland and Virginia?

RELATED: VERIFY: Here are the deadlines for mail-in ballots and when ballots will be processed around the DC area