Free and fair election?

12/16/2016, 8:59 p.m.

That has been the chief U.S. rallying cry for decades regarding elections in countries around the globe, including South Africa, Venezuela, Palestine and even Iran.

The United States has even backed efforts by the United Nations to provide technical assistance and send observers to member states to ensure the integrity of elections under the principles set up in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights — “that the will of the people, as expressed through periodic and genuine elections, shall be the basis of government authority.”

Suddenly, we find our own nation facing the hair-raising question of whether the November 2016 U.S. presidential election was actually free and fair. Did the Russians interfere in the democratic process we all believe in? Did Russian cyber intrusion impact voting machines and election results to help President-elect Donald Trump win?

U.S. intelligence agencies, including the CIA and National Security Agency, believe so.

According to recent published accounts, intelligence officials reportedly briefed President Obama and top congressional intelligence committee leaders about their suspicions and findings before the Nov. 8 election. But GOP leaders refused President Obama’s request for a bipartisan statement urging state and local officials to accept federal help in protecting voter registration and balloting machines from Russian intrusion. As a result, nothing was said publicly, and we don’t know how much — if anything — was done to protect the integrity of the presidential contest.

President-elect Trump has blown off the intelligence findings. His transition team wrote in a statement issued Friday: “These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. The election ended a long time ago in one of the biggest Electoral College victories in history. It’s now time to move on and ‘Make America Great Again.’ ”

Finally this week, top congressional leaders have begun calling for an investigation into Russian attempts to influence the election. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the Kentucky Republican who has blocked President Obama at every turn, has called any foreign breach “disturbing,” adding, “I strongly condemn any such efforts.”

The right to vote is the bedrock of democracy in the United States. And free and fair elections are the standard this nation espouses and by which it measures others. So we are horrified that the American people — including some members of Congress — have remained silent on this issue.

How can we accept the inauguration of a new president in just more than 30 days when we are uncertain whether the election process was corrupted by outside influences?

We demand an immediate and full investigation into whether the results of the U.S. presidential election were compromised by operatives from another nation or by any internal source. Until such a probe is completed and the results made public, we will harbor doubts about the integrity of the U.S. voting process and the election of Republican Donald Trump as president.