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Plain Talk: This sec. of state candidate says he's focusing on the integrity of North Dakota's elections

Marvin Lepp is a Bismarck Republican who, if elected secretary of state, says he will focus on the integrity and transparency of North Dakota's elections.

A man in glasses wears a dark blue suit and red tie.
Marvin Lepp, a Bismarck Republican, is seeking the NDGOP's nomination for secretary of state.
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MINOT, N.D. — Marvin Lepp would like to be North Dakota's next secretary of state.

He's running as a Republican, though he said on this episode of Plain Talk that the office "really ought to be nonpartisan, and he's running on election integrity.

He said he got more involved in politics in recent years during the debates over pandemic-era policies like business closings and mask mandates, and when he was thinking about running for office, decided secretary of state seemed like a good fit.

He didn't seek the NDGOP's endorsement at the party's state convention earlier this year because he said his is a single-family home — he works in auto service and his wife is a homemaker — and it was a decision that was a difficult one to make.

How can our elections be better? Lepp says North Dakota's election machines are running on antiquated software. He said there are questions about the mobile hot spots election workers use. He also said he's spoken to poll workers who told him that the company which manages North Dakota's election machines was able to remotely log into them to fix a firmware issue, something he feels raises security concerns, though he admitted he hadn't verified this claim.

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Does he think President Joe Biden won the 2020 election? Former President Donald Trump and his movement have made that a litmus test question for Republicans nationally. "He won in North Dakota," Lepp told me, referring to Trump. As for elsewhere, Lepp said he's "not sure" because there are "too many" questions lingering.

Lepp also spoke about the non-election portions of the secretary of state job, including managing business filings and serving on important state boards such as the State Industrial Commission and the Land Board.

State Rep. Michael Howe is Lepp's opponent in the NDGOP's primary. Democrat Jeffrey Powell is running unopposed for his party's nomination in the race.

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If there's some red line that Trump could cross, some depth he could stoop to in words or action, that would cost him the support of North Dakota's delegation, he doesn't seem to have crossed it yet.

Opinion by Rob Port
Rob Port is a news reporter, columnist, and podcast host for the Forum News Service. He has an extensive background in investigations and public records. He has covered political events in North Dakota and the upper Midwest for two decades. Reach him at rport@forumcomm.com. Click here to subscribe to his Plain Talk podcast.
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