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An Essential Item for Paper Balloting: Pens

Of all of the problems facing voters today, we didn’t anticipate “lack of pens” being one of them, but here we are. We’re getting reports from multiple states of voters showing up to cast paper ballots only to learn poll workers neglected to stock up on writing implements.

Voters have reported having to use their own pens to fill out ballots, or having to pass pens between voting booths.

Lance Crawford, a voter from Garden City, said he voted at 7 a.m. at the local Henry Ruff School. In Michigan, you have to fill out a form before you are given a ballot. Voters were provided with eight, dull pencils that were impossible to use, he said. “I told the guy standing there that if people had better pencils the process would be faster, and he said ‘Oh, well, I don’t even know if we have a pencil sharpener,’” he said. When he finally got to fill out his ballot — a process he said took 45 minutes in total — there were no black pens to fill in the bubbles. “They were looking for pens. It was a cluster — very disorganized,” he said. “They were definitely ill prepared.”

He wasn’t the only one:

This isn’t a sweeping problem, certainly. But if you are lacking pens at your polling place, let us know.

About Electionland

ProPublica’s Electionland project covers problems that prevent eligible voters from casting their ballots during the 2020 elections. Our coalition of newsrooms around the country are investigating issues related to voter registration, pandemic-related changes to voting, the shift to vote-by-mail, cybersecurity, voter education, misinformation, and more.

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