GOP senator from Oklahoma apologizes to his Black constituents for casting doubt on the integrity of election results and sparking 'a firestorm of suspicion'

  • Sen. James Lankford, a Republican from Oklahoma, wrote an apology letter to his Black constituents on Thursday for originally planning to vote to object to slates of presidential electors in Congress. 
  • Lankford was part of a group of GOP senators who intended to challenge the results of the 2020 presidential race and demand a commission to investigate unspecified election irregularities.
  • Lankford dropped his plan to do so after the January 6 insurrection on the Capitol, but acknowledged that his actions caused "a firestorm of suspicion" among Black communities in his state.  
  • "What I did not realize was all of the national conversation about states like Georgia, Pennsylvania, and Michigan, was seen as casting doubt on the validity of votes coming out of predominantly Black communities like Atlanta, Philadelphia, and Detroit," he wrote.
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Republican Senator James Lankford of Oklahoma wrote a letter on Thursday, apologizing to his Black constituents for having planned to challenge multiple states' electoral votes and request the creation of a commission to investigate purported irregularities in the 2020 election. 

In a statement released shortly before the January 6 joint session of Congress regarding Electoral College votes submitted by the states, Lankford and a group of other senators led by Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas announced their formal objection and demanded the appointment of a commission to conduct an "emergency 1o-day audit."

When Congress was able to return to session after a violent pro-Trump insurrection on the Capitol, which interrupted Lankford giving a speech on the Senate floor, Lankford ended up not voting to sustain the objections raised to Arizona and Pennsylvania's votes. The senators in Cruz's group all but abandoned the effort to demand a commission.  

In the letter, addressed to "my friends in North Tulsa," Lankford began by noting and highlighting the upcoming 100th anniversary of the 1921 Tulsa race massacre in June 2021. He also expressed regret over his actions. 

Read more: Mitch McConnell is telling GOP senators their decision on a Trump impeachment trial conviction is a 'vote of conscience'

"When I announced my support for an Electoral Commission to spend 10 days auditing the results of the 2020 Presidential Election, it was never my intention to disenfranchise any voter or state … I want to strengthen the confidence all Americans have in their electoral system so everyone is encouraged to vote and knows their vote matters," he wrote.

Lankford continued: "But my action of asking for more election information caused a firestorm of suspicion among many of my friends, particularly in Black communities around the state. I was completely blindsided, but I also found a blind spot. What I did not realize was all of the national conversation about states like Georgia, Pennsylvania, and Michigan, was seen as casting doubt on the validity of votes coming out of predominantly Black communities like Atlanta, Philadelphia, and Detroit."

He added: "I can assure you, my intent to give a voice to Oklahomans who had questions was never also an intent to diminish the voice of any Black American. As a United States Senator representing almost four million Oklahomans, I am committed to hearing from all Oklahomans, answering questions, and addressing our challenges to strive toward a more perfect union. In this instance, I should have recognized how what I said and what I did could be interpreted by many of you. I deeply regret my blindness to that perception, and for that I am sorry."

As Lankford hinted at in his letter, much of the Trump campaign's rhetoric and their legal actions in the aftermath of the election focused on predominately Black communities — even in cities like Philadelphia, where Trump got a higher share of the vote than he did in 2016. 

Throughout the 21st century, conservative lawmakers and activists have raised false and exaggerated allegations and filed lawsuits, as the Trump campaign did, over widespread voter fraud or election rigging in inner city and urban communities in order to justify voting restrictions that most immediately impact those same communities. 

Even in 2021, Black voters in many communities nationwide still face disproportionate barriers to accessing the right to vote, including longer wait times to vote and fewer available polling places, and obtaining the necessary identification to vote. They also deal with higher chances of being removed from the voter rolls and less reliable US mail delivery. 

Read the full text of Lankford's letter here>>

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