That can be the only explanation for a rash of reports the last couple of years about tricksters smuggling "disappearing ink pens" into polling places around the world from Russia to Maldives.
I am totally not making this up.
At first glance, I thought maybe it was the ink pens that were disappearing. Everyone knows we have a global pen thief problem. But no, the reports are about actual pens filled with disappearing ink. The story is that voters use the pens to mark their ballots, and then their vote quickly fades away.
- The Christian Science Monitor reported that polling officials discovered disappearing ink pens at the booths in Odessa during parliamentary elections last fall.
- The AP found rampant rumors claiming that the Muslim Brotherhood had supposedly imported 180,000 disappearing ink pens into Egypt for the presidential elections.
- The India Post wrote that election officials in Maldives warned voters to take their own pens to the polls for the presidential election after concerns spread about the possible use of the pens there.
Unfortunately, no one seems to have identified these disappearing ink pens. What kind are they? Where do they come from?
My first theory was that maybe someone was mistakenly using erasable pens like the Uniball Fanthom or the Pilot FriXion. But there is nothing to indicate that could be the case, and I highly doubt that ambient heat could fade the ink on ballots stored inside ballot boxes out of direct sunlight.
Then I saw this disappearing ink pen from ThinkGeek. The site claims that the pens uses a gel ink developed by the KGB during the Cold War. It is supposed to fade slowly over time, vanishing completely within 48 hours.
So maybe there are a few sparks underneath all the smoke.
As a Florida resident, I don't feel quite so bad now about the hanging chads of 2000.
P.S. If you want to read a great little history of invisible ink, head on over to the Art of Manliness.