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Officials debunk multiple claims of dead Georgia residents voting

November 19, 2020 GMT

CLAIM: The identities of deceased Georgia residents Linda Kesler, Deborah Jean Christiansen and James Blalock were used to illegally cast ballots in the 2020 election.

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. No one voted using the identities of these deceased individuals, according to election officials in their respective counties. Georgia residents with similar names to Kesler and Christiansen voted, and Blalock’s widow voted using the name on her voter registration, Mrs. James Blalock Jr. One case of a ballot potentially cast using the name of the deceased Georgia resident Edward Skwiot is being investigated by local law enforcement and the secretary of state.

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THE FACTS: A social media blitz from President Donald Trump’s campaign that involved posting obituaries of dead Georgia residents next to voter fraud claims has backfired over the past week as at least three of the campaign’s four accusations were proven false.

Election officials debunked claims that Georgia voters Linda Kesler, James Blalock and Deborah Jean Christiansen cast votes in the 2020 election, explaining the votes either came from family members or individuals with similar names.

A potential ballot cast in the name of Edward Skwiot, a fourth deceased individual identified by the Trump campaign, remains under investigation as local authorities try to determine what happened. A spokesman for the Georgia Secretary of State told the AP he couldn’t comment on the active investigation.

The rumors started on Nov. 11, when the Trump campaign published a press release and posted the obituaries on its Facebook page.

Mr. James Blalock of Covington, Georgia, a World War II veteran, voted in the election,” read one of the posts. “The only problem? He passed away 14 years ago, in January 2006. Sadly, Mr. Blalock is a victim of voter fraud.”

Since then, the claims have received massive traction, racking up hundreds of thousands of interactions on Facebook.

The obituaries were also picked up by Fox News host Tucker Carlson, who devoted an entire segment to the fraud accusations. That broadcast was amplified by Trump, whose tweet sharing the video was retweeted more than 47,000 times.

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However, election officials have confirmed at least three of these individuals’ identities were not used to cast ballots in the 2020 election.

Linda Kesler, a resident of Nicholson, Georgia, who died in 2003 is listed as deceased in county voting records and didn’t vote this year, Jackson County election officials told The Associated Press. Lynda Kesler, who has a similar name but a different address, birthday and zip code, did vote, they said.

Deborah Jean Christiansen, a Roswell, Georgia resident who died in 2019, cast her last vote in 2018, according to Fulton County election officials. Her voter registration was canceled in 2019 and the county did not mail her a ballot for the Nov. 3 election, they said. A different woman also named Deborah Jean Christiansen who was born in the same year did vote in Cobb County in 2020, according to county Elections Director Janine Eveler. However, that woman has a different birthday and social security number, Eveler said.

James Blalock, a resident of Covington, Georgia, who died in 2006, was purged from the Secretary of State database that year and did not cast a vote in the 2020 election, Newton County election officials said in a statement. “His widow, Mrs. James E. Blalock Jr. has always voted under that name and continued to do so through this year’s election,” the statement read.

Carlson issued an on-air correction and apology on his Fox News show Tucker Carlson Tonight for falsely claiming Blalock voted.

“We’ve got some good news tonight, and an apology: One of the people who voted in last week’s election isn’t dead,” he said on Nov. 13.

On Nov. 17, Carlson said in a statement, “some of the specific dead voters reported to us as deceased are in fact alive.” He doubled down on his unsupported claim that dead people voted in the election.

Since Nov. 3, the AP has debunked a range of baseless accusations that dead people voted in battleground states including Michigan and Pennsylvania. 

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This is part of The Associated Press’ ongoing effort to fact-check misinformation that is shared widely online, including work with Facebook to identify and reduce the circulation of false stories on the platform.

Here’s more information on Facebook’s fact-checking program: https://www.facebook.com/help/1952307158131536