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Opinion: Lankford's disappointing "Hail Mary"

Sen. James Lankford
Sen. James Lankford

Sen. James Lankford is part of what he calls a “Hail Mary” attempt to take yet another look at the 2020 presidential election results. Yet in football, the team throwing a “Hail Mary” pass has a chance win the game — this unfortunate effort is sure to fail, to Lankford's and the Republican Party's detriment.

Lankford, R-Oklahoma City, is among a group of about a dozen Republicans led by Texas Sen. Ted Cruz who plan to oppose the Electoral College vote. Biden won 306 electoral votes compared with President Trump’s 232; Congress meets Wednesday to tally the vote formally.

After electors in each state cast their votes Dec. 14, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who like many Republicans had not conceded the results, congratulated Biden on the victory. Trump’s lawyers filed dozens of court challenges, contending widespread fraud and other election irregularities. Every challenge, including two that went to the U.S. Supreme Court, failed. Before resigning last month, former Attorney General William Barr said his office had not found voter fraud on a scale large enough to change the outcome.

Now Lankford, Cruz and the others plan to oppose the vote unless a special commission is created to look into "allegations of fraud and irregularities." The commission would have to complete its audit within 10 days — ahead of Biden’s inauguration on Jan. 20.

Lankford insists he is not “trying to overturn an election.”

“This commission … would hand their findings to a state and the state would have to decide if they’re going to change their certified electors or not,” he said in an interview Saturday.

The chances of Congress approving creation of the commission range from remote to nonexistent. This effort is likely to end about as quickly as it began, something Lankford acknowledged, although he said he hopes it might pay off in the end.

He said he decided to join this effort after reviewing the 1968 election of Richard Nixon, where one elector who was pledged to Nixon became a “faithless elector” instead. Thirty-three senators challenged that move, Lankford said, and now “there are hardly any states left that allow faithless electors. That started a movement for people to address that.”

His hope, he said, is that this move will serve to prompt states to review their election practices. That needs to happen — several states in 2020 went outside the legislative process to change their rules late in the game, particularly as they related to mailed ballots.

"We shouldn’t have another (election) like this ever again, where there is so much uncertainty and last-minute changes," he said. “My hope is … we show people we’re still trying to address unanswered questions … and that it begins the process of what needs to happen in state law.”

That goal is laudable. However, this approach is disappointing not least because it has a look of sour grapes and rank partisanship, the sorts of things Lankford has largely sought to avoid during his time in Washington.


Opinion editor Owen Canfield is in his 18th year writing editorials for The Oklahoman and has spent nearly 40 years in journalism. Contact him at or call (405) 475-3205. Support his work and that of other Oklahoman journalists by purchasing a digital subscription at

The Oklahoman Editorial Board

The Oklahoman Editorial Board consists of Kelly Dyer Fry, Publisher, Editor and Vice President of News; Owen Canfield, Opinion Editor; and Ray Carter, Chief Editorial Writer.. To submit a letter to the editor, go to this page or email... Read more ›

Owen Canfield III

Owen Canfield has written editorials for The Oklahoman since 2003. Prior to that, he spent 19 years with The Associated Press in Oklahoma City. He is a 1981 graduate of the University of Oklahoma. He and his wife, Lori, have four children. Read more ›