Just another political wake-up call.
US Election 2020: The ‘dead voters’ in Michigan who are still alive
By Jack Goodman, Christopher Giles, Olga Robinson and Jake Horton
BBC Reality Check
14 November 2020
Donald Trump’s supporters have claimed that thousands of votes were cast in the US election using the names of people who had died.
“I may be 72,” Maria Arredondo from Michigan told us when we called her. “But I’m alive and breathing. My mind is working fine and I’m healthy.”
Maria said she had voted for Joe Biden and was surprised to hear that her name had appeared on a list of supposedly dead voters in the state.
We spoke to other people in similar situations to that of Maria in Michigan and found similar stories.
There have been occasions in previous US elections of dead people having apparently voted.
This could happen through clerical errors or perhaps other family members with similar names voting with their ballots, but Trump supporters have alleged this has happened on a massive scale at this election.
We set out to find out whether there is evidence for this claim.
10,000 ‘dead absentee voters’ in Michigan?
The story starts with a list of around 10,000 names posted on Twitter by a Trump-supporting activist.
It purports to be of people who have died, but who have also voted in the presidential election in Michigan.
Claims such as this have been repeated many times on different social-media platforms, including by Republican legislators.
The list of 10,000 contains the name, zip code, and the date a ballot was received. It then lists a full date of birth and a full date of death. Some of the people supposedly died more than 50 years ago.
Michigan has a database that lets you enter someone’s name, zip code, month of birth and year of birth and allows you to see if they voted by absentee ballot this year. So you can easily check whether people on the list voted.
There are also several US websites that include databases of death records.
But there’s a fundamental problem with this list of 10,000.
With an exercise like this you are going to find false matches – somebody born in January 1940 voted in Michigan in the election, and there was somebody born somewhere else in the US in January 1940 who has the same name and is now dead. This will happen a lot in a country as big as the US (328 million people), and particularly with common names.
To test the list, we picked 30 names at random. To this we added the oldest person on the list.
Of this list of 31 names, we managed to speak directly to 11 people (or to a family member, neighbour or care home worker) to confirm they were still alive.
For 17 others, there was no public record of their death, and we found clear evidence that they were alive after the alleged date of death on the list of 10,000. A clear pattern emerged – the wrong records had been joined together to create a false match.
Finally, we found that three people on the list were indeed dead. We examine these cases later.
What we discovered
The first thing we did was to check the official Michigan electoral database to see whether our 31 individuals had sent in ballots – they all had.
We then looked at the death records and quickly became suspicious on seeing that the vast majority did not die in Michigan, but elsewhere in the US.
We wondered whether we could find people of the same name currently living in Michigan.
Checking Michigan state public records, cross-referencing voter postal codes, we were able to find precise dates of birth for those who had voted – and as we had anticipated, they failed to match the dates of birth on the death records.
So we could be confident that we were dealing with two sets of people – those who had voted and those with the same name and age who had died elsewhere.
But what we really wanted to do was to speak to the voters themselves.
We called Roberto Garcia, a retired teacher in Michigan. He told us: “I’m definitely alive and I definitely voted for Biden – I would have to have been dead to vote for Trump.”
We also found a 100-year-old woman who, according to the “dead voter” list, had died in 1982. She was alive and is currently living in a nursing home in Michigan.
But the results of our search weren’t always so straightforward.
When we looked for another centenarian, who according to the list had died in 1977, we found that she had still been alive when her postal ballot was returned in September. However, a neighbour told us the woman had died just a few weeks ago. We also found a matching obituary from October to confirm this.
If a voter dies before election day after submitting their ballot, the Michigan authorities say the ballot will be rejected.
We have not been able to establish whether her ballot was counted.
For those we couldn’t reach by phone, we wanted to use other means to confirm they were alive.
These included public records of, for example, business activities, from state and local authorities.
For one woman who was supposed to have died in 2006 we found an annual company statement signed under her name from January 2020.
Two other men on our list of 31 died some time ago, yet votes had been cast in their names – with the correct postcodes and years of birth – according to the voting database.
We found that for both men, there were sons with the same name currently registered at the same address as their deceased fathers.
In both cases, a ballot was sent in for the dead fathers.
Local election officials told us that one of the votes had been counted but there was no record of the son having voted.
In the other, it was the son who actually voted, but it had been recorded as the father’s due to a clerical error.
‘It’s simply a matter of statistics’
Our selection of 31 cases is only a small sample of the 10,000 names on the list, but it has clearly revealed the flaws in the database shared by Trump supporters.
From our investigation it’s clear that in almost all of our 31 test cases, the data for genuine voters in Michigan has been combined with records of dead people with the same name and birth month and year from across the United States to yield false matches.
“If the lists are linked based on name and birth date alone, in a state the size of Michigan, you’re guaranteed to get false positives,” says Prof Justin Levitt, an expert on the law of democracy.
It’s known as the birthday problem – the high probability that two students in the same class share the same birthday.
So if you compare millions of voters in Michigan with a database of deaths across the United States you’re bound to find cross-over, particularly if the voter database doesn’t include the day of the month on which a person is born.
“It’s simply a matter of statistics that if you cross-reference millions of records with millions of other records, you’ll get a sizable number of false positive matches. We’ve seen this before,” says Prof Justin Levitt.
With her vote safely cast, and counted, Maria Arredondo tells us she’s looking forward to the new administration.
“He was a great vice-president under Obama. I’m so pleased. A weight has lifted off my shoulders.”https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.bbc.com/news/election-us-2020-54874120.amp
No, lots of dead people did not vote in Pennsylvania; here’s why some voters appear impossibly old
Updated Nov 15, 2020; Posted Nov 15, 2020
By The Associated Press454 shares
The Associated Press checks out some of the most popular but completely untrue stories and visuals of the week. This one is bogus, even though it was shared widely on social media. Here are the facts:
CLAIM: Dead people in Pennsylvania voted in the 2020 presidential election.
THE FACTS: Election experts say false claims about dead voters come up every election.
One tweet that repeated the false claim stated: “These are some of the people who voted in #PA…840 were 101 years old or older, 39 lived through the Civil War, 45 were born in the 1800s.” The tweet had over 18,000 retweets.https://55811df957203e00b1efa68b33d14b1a.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html?n=0
Pennsylvania’s Office of Attorney General refuted claims that votes were cast through deceased people. “A similar complaint was brought before a PA court — and soundly rejected,” the office said in a statement. “The court found no deficiency in how PA maintains its voter rolls, and there is currently no proof provided that any deceased person has voted in the 2020 election.”
Some of the claims about dead voters appear to stem from an active federal lawsuit that alleges Pennsylvania failed to “maintain accurate and current voter rolls” that include 21,000 apparently deceased registrants.
The Public Interest Legal Foundation, a conservative group based in Indiana, amended the lawsuit on Nov. 5 against Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar. “This case is about ensuring that those deceased registrants are not receiving ballots,” PILF President and General Counsel J. Christian Adams said in a statement. “This case isn’t complicated.”
Election administration experts told The Associated Press that it is common for state voter rolls to include voters with birthdates that make them appear impossibly old, but these are usually explained by human error, software quirks or voter confidentiality issues.https://55811df957203e00b1efa68b33d14b1a.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html?n=0
When the birthdate is entered, numbers could be accidentally flipped or simply mistyped, according to Tammy Patrick, a former Arizona election official who now works for the Democracy Fund, a foundation that works on voting issues. Election officials sometimes have reason to assign certain voters a standard birthdate, which may be in the far past.
“Some states have a default ‘year of birth’ that they entered for registrations that lacked a year of birth on the old paper forms when voter registration was moved from paper to computer,” Jason Roberts, a professor of political science at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, told The Associated Press. “Those never get updated and as time goes on the voters with this issue look ‘older’ whether they are or not.”
In Pennsylvania, some active voters are listed with the birthdate “01/01/1800.” That date is used for “confidentiality reasons of the registered voters,” such as if they’re victims of domestic violence, according to a state website.https://55811df957203e00b1efa68b33d14b1a.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html?n=0
Claims that hundreds of people over 100 voted in Pennsylvania suggest something nefarious, but Matthew Weill, Elections Project director at Bipartisan Policy Center, said that is “not so crazy” in the year 2020. “There are tens of thousands of centenarians in the U.S.,” he said.https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.oregonlive.com/politics/2020/11/no-lots-of-dead-people-did-not-vote-in-pennsylvania-heres-why-some-voters-appear-impossibly-old.html%3foutputType=amp
‘Just ridiculous’: CNN speaks to Georgia voter the Trump campaign falsely accused of casting ballot in the name of a dead woman
By Konstantin Toropin, Daniel Dale and Amara Walker, CNN
Atlanta(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.https://697512d849d4ecae9dc7d35a99c98d5e.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html?n=0
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.Deborah Jean Christiansen
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.https://697512d849d4ecae9dc7d35a99c98d5e.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html?n=0
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.https://www.google.com/amp/s/amp.cnn.com/cnn/2020/11/18/politics/fact-check-georgia-dead-voter-deborah-jean-christiansen/index.html
But hey, don’t let facts get in the way of advancing The Party and The Leader at the expense of democracy and the country.