If you randomly catch any 10 Oklahomans on the street today and ask them if there was at least some voter fraud in the November election, my suspicion is a majority of them would say yes.
In the last two months, my office has received thousands of calls and questions from Oklahomans in every corner of the state about the 2020 presidential election. I’ve also had conversations with people at the grocery store, gas station, through text messages and on personal phone calls.
Some Oklahomans say Biden obviously won, like it or not, accept it. Some say, clearly Trump won, and the election was stolen. But a majority of the people who have contacted me just want to know what happened and how we fix this for the future. I would hope that everyone agrees we should ask, “How does this not happen again?”
I am disappointed when some people say to me, “We always have dead people who vote or double voting, no big deal.” If we know there is a problem, let’s fix it.
Some states have ignored problems in their voting systems for too long, and now we are reaping the consequences. President Donald Trump spoke often about voting problems in 2016 and 2020, especially with mail-in voting. Some states took action to strengthen their voting verification, but some actually loosened their voting requirements without increasing security.
There is no question that there were some problems across the country with signature verifications, people receiving multiple ballots in the mail, different rules in some states for mail-in ballots than in-person ballots, double voting, last-minute election rule changes, ballot harvesting, delayed receipt of ballots, inconsistent curing of ballots and a lack of meaningful access to the polls or counting processes for partisan poll watchers. Even after many of these questions have been reviewed by state leaders and courts, questions still persist.
We need to rebuild trust in our elections.
On Saturday, I joined 10 of my colleagues to demand the establishment of an electoral commission of five senators, five representatives and five justices of the U.S. Supreme Court to study the election and make recommendations. This is loosely modeled after the electoral commission of 1877 when electors from four states were in dispute because of possible voter fraud. The commission would begin immediately and would have 10 days to investigate the claims of voting irregularities and potential fraud and provide their findings to the states before the constitutionally required inauguration on Jan. 20. The commission would not choose the president. That is against the Constitution.
In our system, states choose the president through electors, so states would receive the findings of the commission and make their own decision. It’s a tight timetable, and it’s not a perfect solution. But we cannot ignore the millions of people who want the facts to come out and want resolution for this election.
Our Constitution and the law requires that I accept the states’ final decision on an election. But we all know that this issue will not just disappear after Jan. 20.
After the 2016 election, I worked across the aisle to improve our election security, to make sure more states had paper ballots, enhanced cyber security, clearances for state election officials and more opportunities for election security cooperation. All of those changes improved our election system, but obviously we still have work to do.
If my colleagues will not agree to hear the concerns of millions of Americans, I’m prepared to oppose some of the electors on Wednesday since I wouldn’t be able to affirm they were “regularly made,” which is the legal standard. This isn’t about blocking or overturning election results; it’s about trying to pull us all back together with facts after a very contentious election cycle.
Congressional objections to electors are not new. In 1969 and 2005, senators from both parties raised voter integrity issues during the Jan. 6 joint session of Congress. They debated the issues and made election reforms for future elections. In 1969 and 2005, they were not thwarting democracy; they were challenging us to improve our democracy, which they did. This is no different.
There are very few challenges after Oklahoma elections because of our clear and simple process and the hard work of our state election board and county election officials. We know that the cornerstone of democracy is free and fair elections that encourage everyone to vote, ensure all legal votes are counted correctly, and ensure illegal votes are not counted.
We shouldn’t stop working to restore the confidence that our elections are secure and the results can be verified. It’s vital to who we are as a free nation. Oklahomans want to have confidence in our election system and in the election results. That’s not too much to ask.
James Lankford, a Republican, is the junior U.S. senator from Oklahoma.