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Local officials rebut three dead-voter claims by Trump campaign

The Trump campaign published a series of posts identifying dead Americans whose names, the campaign alleged, were used to cast votes during this month’s election. At least three of those names, however, were disputed this week.
The Trump campaign published a series of posts identifying dead Americans whose names, the campaign alleged, were used to cast votes during this month’s election. At least three of those names, however, were disputed this week.Matt Slocum/Associated Press

Last week, the Trump campaign published a series of posts on Facebook and Twitter identifying dead Americans whose names, the campaign alleged, were used to cast votes in this month’s election. The seven people were from Georgia and Pennsylvania, two battleground states that were crucial to Joe Biden’s victory.

At least three of them, however, either did not actually vote in the election or were alive and well and cast legal votes, according to state and county election officials.

The name that spread the most online was Deborah Jean Christiansen of Roswell, Georgia. On Facebook, 166 posts mentioning her name as proof of voter fraud collected over 280,000 likes, shares and comments from last Wednesday through Sunday, according to CrowdTangle, a Facebook-owned social media analytics tool. The vast majority of that activity came from a video post from the account for “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” the Fox News show. The post, “Yes, Dead People Did Vote in the Election,” generated 2.5 million views on Facebook.

But Christiansen did not vote, according to election officials.

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“We don’t have a record of a new voter registration, and we don’t have a record of a ballot being sent to this person,” Jessica Corbitt, a spokeswoman for Fulton County in Georgia, said in an interview. “We have her in the system as deceased.”

Some news outlets, like CNN and Agence France-Presse, reported that there was no fraud in Christiansen’s case. But each of the posts generated far fewer shares and interactions than the posts containing the false information, according to CrowdTangle data.

The Trump campaign also argued that James E. Blalock Jr. of Covington, Georgia, and Linda Kesler of Nicholson, Georgia, had voted fraudulently. But county election officials told The New York Times that the two people had been correctly marked as deceased and did not vote. Mrs. James E. Blalock Jr., the widow of James Blalock, and a Lynda Kesler with a different address, birthday and Social Security number, voted legally, the officials said.

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The Trump campaign’s original posts about Blalock and Kesler collected 26,600 likes and shares on Facebook, according to CrowdTangle data, while a report from a local news outlet correcting the claim collected just 10,100.

The post about Blalock was eventually deleted on Twitter but remains up on Facebook. On Friday, Carlson apologized for his erroneous reporting — but only in the case of Blalock.

“On Friday, we began to learn some of the specific dead voters reported to us as deceased are in fact alive,” a spokeswoman for “Tucker Carlson Tonight” said in a statement. “We initially corrected this on Friday. We regret not catching it earlier. But the truth remains: Dead people voted in the election.”

The other four people the Trump campaign held up are from Trenton, Georgia; and Drexel Hill, South Park and Allentown, Pennsylvania. Local election officials said they were still investigating those allegations.

The Trump campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.