Hours before a pro-Trump mob stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021 in a stunning and brazen display that left five dead and widespread destruction, hundreds of Oklahomans gathered outside of the State Capitol in a protest seeking to overturn the presidential election.  

Holding signs or flags that read, “stop the steal,” “fight for freedom” and “Patriots! Duty Calls,” the crowd listened as a series of speakers, including elected officials, pushed the so-called “Big Lie” that the presidential election was somehow rigged and that former President Donald Trump should remain in office. 

A year later, the United States is still dealing with the fallout of the insurrection and the disinformation campaign that pushed the country to the brink of catastrophe. 

While a majority of Americans rightfully believe that President Joe Biden legitimately won the election, a recent national poll found 75% of Republicans say there was widespread fraud that cost Trump the election. Meanwhile, a new Washington Post-University of Maryland survey found 1 in 3 Americans say violence against the government can be justified.

Over the past year, Trump’s numerous electoral legal challenges were all rejected. And election officials, both Republican and Democrats, across the country have repeatedly affirmed there is no evidence of widespread fraud. 

But in Oklahoma, a contingent of Republican party leaders, state lawmakers and 2022 candidates continue to push debunked conspiracy theories that experts worry will continue to sow distrust of fair and secure elections.

More than a year now removed from the Jan. 6 insurrection, I wanted to write how election misinformation or disinformation continues to persist in Oklahoma. I, unfortunately, still see it routinely in emails from readers, posts on Facebook and other social media sites and even during political or campaign events.

In my latest article that ran on the Jan. 6 anniversary, I found Oklahoma Republican political leaders, 2022 candidates and even some sitting lawmakers continue to believe and push the lie that Trump won in 2020.

In my article I talked to lawmakers, party officials, Oklahoma’s chief election officer and a researcher who studies misinformation. My takeaways were that many are still worried that a repeat, or even something worse, than Jan. 6 could happen again if lies and mistrust surrounding elections are not challenged. This is no easy task, but it is an important one.

Soon I’ll be sharing my plans to focus on democracy and misinformation in a new beat we are establishing for Oklahoma Watch. But in the meantime, I want to hear how you think we should combat misinformation or the ever-increasingly political polarization of our county. Let me know your thoughts by emailing me at tbrown@oklahomawatch.org or finding me on Twitter at @tbrownokc.

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Elk City Middle School students took a mental health screening at the beginning of Lana Graham’s geography class on March 8, 2021. Graham said since the Coronavirus pandemic began, her students seem more anxious and depressed than ever. (Whitney Bryen/Oklahoma Watch)

What’s it Like to Struggle with Mental Health in Oklahoma? Help Us Tell The Story

We’re asking for your help to improve Oklahoma Watch‘s mental health coverage. Through your experiences and insights, we hope to gain a better understanding of the struggles Oklahomans are facing and the challenges in caring for them.

Oklahoma Watch’s Whitney Bryen, who is leading the project, is asking Oklahomans to share their story. She has set up an online survey that will help us shape our coverage. If you or someone you know has struggled with mental health, we would love to hear from you. [Read More …]

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A law passed last year will begin saving Oklahomans some money, starting Jan. 1.

But big earners are the ones who will benefit the most from the personal income tax cut. The Oklahoman‘s Carmen Forman reported this week that on average, Oklahomans will receive about $130 in tax relief, although 15% of residents won’t see any change in individual income taxes. 

But those earning the state’s median income, which the U.S. Census Bureau says is about $53,000, will save only about $81 in annual income taxes. Tax filers who earn between $100,000 and $124,999 will save about $178 annually. 

What I’m Reading This Week

  • A growing number of women are facing criminal charges for substance use during pregnancy in Oklahoma. Experts and health care providers say that’s bad for moms and babies. [The Frontier]
  • The state has adequate COVID-19 testing supplies, but at-home tests are flying off the shelves and out of stores as the number of cases rises, interim Health Commissioner Keith Reed said Wednesday [Tulsa World]
  • Oklahoma’s COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are surging again, and experts warned that they expect those numbers to keep rising even as health care workers and hospitals are already under strain. [The Oklahoman]
  • Health officials report the most rapid rise to date in COVID test positivity is happening in Oklahoma. Despite this, Gov. Kevin Stitt’s office confirmed he still hasn’t gotten a second shot after his Johnson & Johnson vaccine in March. [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • Some 762 people died from drug overdoses in Oklahoma in 2020, a 17% increase in such deaths over the prior year, according to a National Center for Health Statistics report released last week.[Journal Record]

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