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'Integrity in elections' concern of Oklahoma Republican lawmaker amplifying election conspiracy claims

'Integrity in elections' concern of Oklahoma Republican lawmaker amplifying election conspiracy claims


An Oklahoma lawmaker who has been aggressively pushing conspiracy theories about the presidential election said Friday that he is just concerned about “integrity” and will accept whatever courts decide about President Donald Trump’s apparent loss to Democrat Joe Biden.

“It’s important to get it right, and if Joe Biden is our president when we’re done with this, so be it,” said Rep. Kevin McDugle, R-Broken Arrow.

In speeches and on social media, McDugle has repeated Trump’s claim that he trails in both the popular and electoral college votes because of “rampant fraud.”

“Don’t believe the lies about not having evidence,” McDugle, who represents most of Wagoner County, said in a social media post during the past few days.

In fact, election experts say the Trump team has presented little to no evidence of fraud or serious mismanagement, despite repeated promises to do so.

The situation highlights an ongoing and apparently growing disconnect among Americans.

“There’s these two messages out there,” McDugle said: “one that there’s all this (fraud) and the other is that there’s not.”

As an example, when it was pointed out that it has not been proved that Dominion election software “flipped” millions of votes in Biden’s favor, as McDugle and others have asserted, he said, “Where are you getting your information, because where I’m getting mine says just the opposite.”

McDugle and probably many others think the national media and Trump’s critics are not being honest about their biases.

“The message that’s been laid out for a long time … is that if the election doesn’t go the way we want, there must be cheating in the process,” McDugle said. “But when Trump says it, all the sudden there is no election (cheating).”

McDugle says he just wants Trump to have his day in court, but alarms have sounded in recent days about the president resorting to direct pressure on state and local election officials.

Others say they suspect that the claims of election fraud and other maneuverings are not about winning court cases but about delaying and perhaps blocking Biden’s eventual confirmation as the president-elect.

They also worry that the Trump campaign’s loud and so far unproven claims will permanently damage faith in the election system McDugle says he’s trying to protect.

The suggestion seemed to take McDugle aback. He said he suspects that election fraud has been commonplace “since the second term of (Bill) Clinton,” but he offered no specifics.

“The one thing that we have in this country that separates us from anyone else is integrity in elections,” McDugle said. “In America, the people get to decide. The people get to choose. If that process is compromised, then no one has any confidence. … If the system is rigged or cheated, then we’ve lost everything.”

Earlier this week, most Oklahoma Republican legislators signed a letter to swing state lawmakers asking them to assert full oversight of elections. It includes a line that Oklahoma Democrats said encourages the overturning of elections.

The line reads: “If a legislature were to decide that, as a result of fraud or some other reason that undermined the validity of the election, that the results will not be trusted, they would be obligated to appoint Electors that would represent the will of the people.”

The Democrats object to the suggestion that Legislatures are free to throw out election results they don’t like. Republicans say the key phrase is the last one, which specifies that electors must “represent the will of the people.”

House Majority Leader Jon Echols, R-Oklahoma City, said all the letter asks is for states to follow the law and “count legal votes and not count illegal ones.”

“It’s dangerous if we set up a world where if we say, ‘Count the legal votes; don’t count the illegal votes,’ it is somehow controversial,” Echols said.

“The No. 1 call I’m getting is: ‘What’s Oklahoma doing about the election,’” Echols said. “I have to tell them I don’t have a role in election integrity in Michigan or other states.”

Echols said Trump is entitled to make his arguments in court, and he dismissed the notion that the president might try to hold onto his office through other means — or at least do so successfully.

“Right now,” Echols said, “it looks like Vice President Biden is going to be the next president.”

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Trump is still popular in Oklahoma, but his legacy here is harder to pinpoint. Such is often the case for presidents, but assessing Trump's administration is further complicated by his unorthodox style and a pandemic now more than a year long.

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