OKLAHOMA CITY — Oklahoma’s attorney general damaged relations with the state’s Black community when he challenged the results of the 2020 presidential election, the head of the state’s NAACP said.
Anthony Douglas, who also serves on the national board of directors for the NAACP, said Mike Hunter used taxpayer money to involve himself in litigation that perpetuated the unfounded idea that voter fraud had occurred, particularly in areas that have predominantly Black communities.
The effort was an attempt to disenfranchise Black voters in Michigan, Georgia and Pennsylvania and sought to suppress constitutionally protected rights, Douglas said.
“Who are you to use taxpayer money to file a lawsuit to disenfranchise Black voters?” Douglas asked. “This here was really targeting racism and not about legislation. If we (act this way) with the Black voters in other states, then we can mistreat Black voters in our own state.”
He also said the move has shaken confidence in the civil and human rights enforcement unit that Hunter is tasked with overseeing.
“Can a person who has a complaint go to the Attorney General as an African American and feel that they would get fair treatment in the state of Oklahoma because he already has attempted to file a lawsuit to disenfranchise voters in other states?” Douglas said.
Hunter declined comment.
In December, his office sent out a press release announcing that he was one of more than a dozen attorneys general who signed on to a brief in support of a Texas lawsuit filed against Pennsylvania, Georgia, Michigan and Wisconsin, challenging the 2020 results.
The lawsuit asked the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene on the grounds that those states violated the Fourteenth Amendment, which forbids states from depriving people of life, liberty or property without due process, and the Electors Clause.
The Supreme Court declined to hear the case.
The allegations against Hunter come as U.S. Sen. James Lankford, R-Oklahoma, has faced a similar outcry from Oklahoma’s Black community for his role challenging Electoral College certification. Lankford in December signed a letter along with U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and others, saying he would vote against Electoral College certification unless a commission conducted an audit of the vote. Lankford backed away from that challenge after a mob of Trump supporters attacked the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.
In an apology letter last week penned to his “friends in North Tulsa,” Lankford said his action of asking for additional election information caused “a firestorm of suspicion among many of my friends, particularly in Black communities around the state.”
Lankford, who also serves on the state’s 1921 Race Massacre Centennial Commission, wrote that he did not realize that all of the national conversation about states like Georgia, Pennsylvania and Michigan was seen as casting doubt on votes coming out of predominantly Black communities.
The race massacre commission is working to educate and commemorate the upcoming 100th anniversary of the two-day massacre in which many Black Tulsans were killed, injured or left homeless amid rioting that destroyed the historic Greenwood district. Some members of that commission are calling for Lankford to resign or be removed.
State Rep. Monroe Nichols, D-Tulsa, said Oklahoma voters hired Hunter to serve as the state’s top lawyer and law enforcement official, yet for no reason he chose to involve himself in another state’s elections based on false information.
Nichols said Hunter wasn’t alone. More than 45 state House Republicans applauded Hunter for joining the Texas lawsuit. In a press release, they argued without evidence that there was fraud in the Nov. 3 election.
“I think what we saw was a great failure of leadership in this state to go get involved in a different state based on some lies and falsehoods and all that kind of stuff just so they can tell their constituents that they were doing something that they never had any business doing in the first place,” Nichols said.
Nichols, who serves on the Legislature’s Black caucus, said while Hunter’s office has done some good things in past, there are lingering concerns.
“I do have some concerns that the AG’s Office has proved itself to be a purely political institution which is something that we can’t afford,” he said.
Janelle Stecklein covers the Oklahoma Statehouse for CNHI's newspapers and websites. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.