U.S. Sen. James Lankford’s and all five of Oklahoma’s U.S. House members’ complaints about the Nov. 3 presidential election are groundless. Although Lankford eventually relented and accepted the Electoral College votes, it should not have taken a riot for the democratic process to proceed.
The violent events that took place last week should serve as a powerful wake-up call to all our elected officials that words matter. Now is the time to work to restore confidence in our elections and our democracy, not to sow doubts about the security of our elections in order to undermine the will of the people.
We are now two months out from the last election, and President Donald Trump and his enablers have continued to raise allegations of fraud without presenting evidence to support it. Elections administrators (many of whom are Republicans), the Department of Homeland Security, and every prevailing court in every state where they have brought challenges have said without reservation that the claims of fraud are false and baseless.
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Despite a raging pandemic, our resilient democracy managed to successfully carry off the highest-participation, best administered election in our history. And Americans of all walks of life — Republican, Democrat and independent — turned out in record numbers and elected their leaders, including many Republican senators, representatives, governors and state legislators — none of whom are claiming any fraudulent voting in their races.
The call for an electoral commission needlessly inflamed the false narrative that Joe Biden is not the legitimately elected next president of the United States. He is, and no amount of politically divisive rhetoric can change that truth.
Running fair elections and giving the American public trust in our democracy is paramount. With more than 4 in 10 eligible citizens still not registered or voting, we must work to enfranchise more voters, not fewer, building on our country’s on-going work to perfect the promise of our founding: that all people are created equal and should be represented.
This will rely on making sure citizens are not intentionally misdirected by those in power — those whose job it is to know better. The false claims about rigged elections are nothing more than red herrings from politicians who do not like the outcome of this past election. And it is dangerous.
Let’s talk honestly about our elections, as there are certainly ways to make them work even better and ensure that they are free and fair.
First and foremost, we need to improve accessibility for all voters, including seniors and veterans, through expanding early and absentee voting options. To make our elections more secure, we need balllot tracking systems and a uniform process to address signature problems. We can also prevent delays in election results by allowing election administrators to start processing ballots sooner.
These changes are only possible if our state election administrators are given the funding they need to make them, which is in the hands of Congress.
Additionally, Congress can finally move forward on the most important federal reforms that would give power back to the people, including removing the big money of both parties from politics, restoring the Voting Rights Act and offering new protections against intentional voter suppression that disproportionately disenfranchises Black Americans, people of color and historically marginalized communities.
The events at the Capitol last week were an attack on our country and each citizen. And we cannot ignore the racism and anti-Semitism inherent in this violence. It was brought on by a president and his enablers who refuse to accept that a record number of us turned out to stand with and for each other and elect Democrats and Republicans up and down the ticket, including President-elect Joe Biden, by overwhelming margins.
Our family was active in helping to ensure safe and fair elections in which all citizens were encouraged and able to participate. I am very proud of this work, and the hard work of state and county elections officials of both parties in Oklahoma and throughout the country.
I believe most Oklahomans are ready to move forward and focus on dealing with the real challenges in front of us: an out-of-control pandemic and the resulting economic crisis which has too many out of work and struggling, rather than the made-up challenges about voter fraud. Much work remains to be done to perfect our democratic promise. Let’s all work on that together.
Stacy Schusterman is the chair of the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Foundation. She lives in Tulsa.