Arizona official issues cease-and-desist notice to Republican candidate: Stop telling people to steal our pens

Bogus ‘SharpieGate’ claims return among GOP candidates in conspiracy theory hotbed state

Alex Woodward
New York
Wednesday 03 August 2022 00:43 BST
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The top prosecutor in Maricopa County, Arizona issued a cease-and-desist notice to a Republican candidate who has amplified voter fraud conspiracy theories and told supporters to steal pens from polling places on Election Day.

Gail Golec, a GOP candidate for county supervisor, told her supporters on 2 August to take felt-tip pens provided at ballot boxes, echoing baseless election-related claims that ballots would not be counted if they are filled with other kinds of ink.

Arizona emerged as a hotbed of election conspiracy theory activity in the aftermath of the 2020 presidential election. Prominent election deniers running for the GOP nominations for Arizona’s governor and secretary of state – the chief election administrator – are among a wave of Donald Trump-endorsed candidates seeking the party’s nomination for November’s general election, building their campaigns around election fraud lies in the critical swing state.

On her Telegram account, Ms Golec told her supporters to “take the Pentel pen with you and leave a blue pen behind. Eventually they will run out!”

In her letter, Maricopa County Attorney Rachel Mitchell asked Ms Golec to retract her statements on Twitter, “acknowledging that no one should steal pens from voting locations and urging that no one do so.”

“As you well know, theft of any sort is unlawful; moreover encouraging theft of the fast-drying ink pens specifically recommended for election day voting is a deliberate attempt to interfere with election administration and will have the harmful effect of delaying the vote tabulation of election day ballots, as the wet ink harms the vote center tabulation machines,” Ms Mitchell wrote.

Ms Golec responded on Twitter saying her “intention is to Protect Our Vote, not encourage you to steal pens.”

“Ironically, concerned about law breaking, Maricopa County is really afraid that people will steal the pens,” she said. “What if they ran out and they did not get enough ballots into the adjudication cycle?”

Ballpoint and gel pens leave more residue that could jam machines, according to election officials.

Ahead of Election Day, Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer urged voters to “PLEASE PLEASE” use the provided pens to prevent any issues with the ballot machines.

Despite the letter, Ms Golec repeatedly told supporters on Tuesday to stop using the provided felt-tip pens and claimed that ballot-processing machines cannot read the ink, triggering an automatic adjudication of the votes designed to “cheat” and “hack” the outcome.

Similarly bogus claims around what became “SharpieGate” suggested that election officials provided voters with Sharpie pens to intentionally interfere with Trump’s election.

Ahead of Tuesday’s primary, users across Truth Social and other social media platforms have told voters to “bring your own pens” and ditch the provided Pentel pens.

Last month, far-right extremist state Senator Wendy Rogers suggested that election officials are intentionally “causing distrust” over the pens. On Tuesday, she instead called the “pens and markers issue” “misdirection” so “we don’t catch the mules and the computer fraud”.

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