This is a pretty simple question: I have received an absentee ballot in Massachusetts and I don't know which writing utensil to use to fill it out. I found with some searching that California wants you to use a #2 pencil, but I also have heard that you should use pen to prevent tampering. It isn't specified clearly anywhere, but it seems like a very important thing to know.

Personal experience is fine, but sources would be preferred.

  • It doesn't specify. I think this question is a holdover from electronic scoring of exams which had to be marked in pencil because the graphite was electrically conductive. These are being read by people, a sharpie or crayon would probably work.
    – Alan Corey
    Aug 23, 2020 at 17:03

1 Answer 1


As far as I can tell, there is no requirement. But read the instructions that came with it closely - if they don't say anything, you're probably free to use whatever you want.

The official Massachusetts page explaining how to vote absentee doesn't specify anything, and the laws governing counting votes (see 53.04(18), on page 13) specify that each absentee ballot's votes are read out by one person and marked down by a different person, which implies that anything legible will do.

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