'Just ridiculous': CNN speaks to Georgia voter the Trump campaign falsely accused of casting ballot in the name of a dead woman
CNN/Stylemagazine.com Newswire | 11/19/2020, 2:41 p.m.
By Konstantin Toropin, Daniel Dale and Amara Walker, CNN
(CNN) -- President Donald Trump's campaign and Fox News host Tucker Carlson alleged last week that a vote cast by a Georgia woman named Deborah Jean Christiansen was fraudulent.
The allegation was false -- like two other voter fraud claims the Trump campaign and Carlson leveled against legal Georgia voters last week.
The campaign and Carlson said this vote was a fraud because Deborah Jean Christiansen died last year. In fact, the vote was legally cast by a living woman who also happens to be named Deborah Jean Christiansen, born in the same year and month but on a different day.
Christiansen answered the door when CNN showed up on Tuesday evening.
Christiansen, a retired mental health counselor who moved from Nebraska to Georgia in September, said she voted for Trump in 2016 but came to regret the decision, then voted for Joe Biden in 2020.
Christiansen said the false accusation from the Trump campaign is "just ridiculous," part of an effort by a "narcissist" president to deny the obvious reality of his defeat.
"The guy lost the election. He should be worried more about taking care of people, with this Covid-19 going on. He's got a pandemic," she said. "Come on. Biden won. Let's move on. Let's help him transition."
Not the first time
It is not clear whether the Trump campaign intentionally or unintentionally mixed up the living Deborah Jean Christiansen and the deceased Deborah Jean Christiansen. Regardless of its motive, though, the President's team was falsely alleging a crime had occurred -- and needlessly putting private citizens in the national spotlight.
And it was not the only time the Trump campaign did so.
Last week, CNN debunked two other false claims from the campaign, both echoed by Carlson on air and in an online column, about ballots supposedly being cast in the name of deceased Georgia voters. (Carlson ended up apologizing on air for one of those claims -- in which he and the Trump campaign had wrongly accused a 96-year-old widow -- and had an editor's note about the correction attached to his column.)
The Christiansen saga began on November 11, when the campaign's "war room" account tweeted: "Mrs. Deborah Jean Christiansen of Roswell, Georgia was registered to vote on October 5. Then she voted in the election. The only problem? She passed away a year and a half ago, in May 2019. Sadly, Mrs. Christiansen is a victim of voter fraud."
The allegation generated more than 10,000 retweets. And Trump's Twitter account, which had nearly 89 million followers as of Tuesday, retweeted a "war room" clip of the television segment in which Carlson repeated the allegation; the tweet of the clip generated more than 27,000 retweets.
You do not need to knock on the living Christiansen's door in Cobb County, near Atlanta, to figure out that the fraud claim is false. Cobb County elections director Janine Eveler told CNN that while the two Deborah Jean Christiansens were both born in 1954, they have different birthdays and different Social Security numbers. Also, she said, the deceased woman "is marked as deceased" in the state's system.
Eveler said Cobb County records confirm the living Deborah Jean Christiansen registered to vote on October 5 -- the date the Trump campaign wrongly claimed someone registered in the name of the deceased woman -- and voted in person on October 28, when she would have had her photo identification checked.
The Trump campaign "seems to have jumped to an inaccurate conclusion based on partial information," Eveler said in an email.
The deceased Deborah Jean Christiansen had lived in Fulton County, which is adjacent to Cobb County. Jessica Corbitt-Dominguez, director of external affairs in Fulton County, said their records show that the deceased woman's final vote was in 2018.
Corbitt-Dominguez said the deceased woman's voter registration was canceled in 2019, because of her death that year, and that there is no record of someone re-registering in her name or voting in her name in the 2020 election.
"We regret any stress caused to Ms. Christiansen's family as a result of this misinformation. Unfortunately we are aware that there are individuals circulating misinformation intended to undermine trust in the elections system," Corbitt-Dominguez said in a statement.
The Trump campaign did not respond to CNN's Monday and Tuesday requests for comment on its false claim about Christiansen. But the President himself is not showing any sign of backing down.
On Tuesday afternoon, Trump tweeted the words "DEAD PEOPLE VOTED" -- and linked to the article in which Carlson made the false accusations about Christiansen and the two other Georgia residents CNN has already shown were legal voters.
In an email statement to CNN on Tuesday night, Carlson said that, last Friday, he "began to learn some of the specific dead voters reported to us as deceased are in fact alive. We initially corrected this on Friday. We regret not catching it earlier." Carlson maintained in the statement that there were dead people who voted in the election, but this time he did not identify any particular alleged cases.
All forms of voter fraud are very rare.