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Truth Tracker: Marking ballots with pencils does not increase the risk of voter fraud

EDMONTON – Since the advance polls opened on Friday, Elections Canada has actively dispelled allegations online that polling stations are using pencils that could be intentionally smeared or altered to mess up voters’ ballots.

The allegations sparked a somewhat misleading call to arms on social media, as those concerned about voter fraud urge voters to bring pens to their polls to prevent their ballots from being tampered with.


Articles claiming that pencils provided at Elections Canada polling stations increase the risk of voter fraud can be found on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

The majority of these messages are concerned that pencil-marked ballots may be smeared, invalidating the ballot. Others suggest more insidious scenarios, including allegations that pencil selections could be erased or changed to “rig” the election.

“Don’t use pencil, it can be erased … black pen is accepted on ballots according to Elections Canada … don’t let anyone tell you otherwise,” reads on Instagram posted Monday by the PPC Simcoe North, Ontario. campaign.

Many of these messages urge voters to instead bring a pen with them to vote – an approved option widely disseminated by Elections Canada.


Elections Canada is required by law to provide black lead pencils at polling stations – it always has been. This year, voters will receive a personal, single-use pencil to mark their ballot in an effort to be more COVID-19 friendly.

However, Elections Canada makes it very clear both on its website and on social media that voters can bring their own pens, markers or other writing tools to mark their ballots without seeing them thrown away.

“Elections Canada provides voters with pencils at polling places, as required by the Canada Elections Act. However, voters are encouraged to bring their own pen, pencil, marker, etc. to mark their ballot, ”said Elections Canada spokesperson Natasha Gauthier. by email Monday.

Gauthier added that there are many integrity measures in place to ensure that the ballots – which are presented in booklets with unique and sequential serial numbers – are not tampered with.

“The bulletins themselves have several security features, including specific colored paper and a tear-off strip (a stub) that includes its own unique serial number,” she said.

“After a voter returns their folded ballot to the election worker, the worker compares the stub number with the stub number in the booklet to make sure it is the same, then takes the stub off and the stub. tears it up before giving the (still folded) ballot to the voter to put it in the ballot box.

Polling station workers also work in public view and are never alone, which means there would be witnesses to any vote tampering. Under Elections Canada’s guarantees, two deputy returning officers and party representatives are also posted at each polling station.

And while it should be noted that pencils provided at polling stations are not fitted with erasers, Elections Canada adds that the allegations on pencil-marked ballots could be smeared to invalidate a result are unfounded.

In fact, CTV News witnessed a test conducted by Elections Canada on one of the pencils provided at polling stations on a sample ballot. The “X” is slightly stained, but not enough to distort the mark, even when rubbed with water.

According to Elections Canada, as long as there is a mark next to a candidate’s name – even if it is smeared – the vote counts.

“When voting in person, voters mark their ballot inside the circle next to the name of the candidate they have chosen. When they vote by special ballot, they must write on behalf of the candidate they have chosen, ”said Gauthier.

“In either case, as long as the ballot is correctly / legibly marked and the voter’s intention is clear, it will be counted.”


Claims that the use of a pencil could allow someone to intentionally stain, alter or erase the ballots are false. However, if you are concerned about using a pencil on your ballot, you are both encouraged and allowed to bring a pen or marker.

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Edited by Adam Ward


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