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Port: He's grandstanding on election fraud, but Becker voted against stronger laws

In his campaign for the U.S. Senate, state Rep. Rick Becker would have us believe that he's very concerned about election integrity. Yet in the Legislature, when he had a chance to vote to make election fraud a felony, he said no.

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State Rep. Rick Becker, R-Bismarck, speaks on the floor of the state House in Bismarck.
Screencapture of North Dakota's legislative video feed
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MINOT, N.D. — When Rep. Rick Becker was first elected to the North Dakota House he was a thoughtful, principled, serious-minded lawmaker.

He's since abandoned thoughtfulness and principle and seriousness in an attempt to bolster his nascent career as a political pundit and his campaign for the U.S. Senate. Becker's strategy now is to pander to the goobers in the Trump movement.

And no pandering effort targeting the Trumpkins is complete without election conspiracy theories.

Becker has been touting election conspiracy nonsense at NDGOP district conventions around the state. Earlier this week , he sent out a fundraising email asking supporters for money so he can go to Washington, D.C., and continue to flog the dead horse that is the 2020 election.

Forget energy policy, or agriculture policy, or any number of other policy areas that are deeply important to the health and prosperity of North Dakotans.

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No, what Becker wants to focus on is Trump's obsession with losing in 2020.

But here's the thing: If election integrity is such a serious topic for Becker, if it's going to be a tent pole issue for his campaign, then why did he vote against making North Dakota's election laws tougher while serving in the state House?

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During the 2013 session, lawmakers passed, by wide and bipartisan margins, a bill making election tampering a more serious crime.

Anyone who would "make any false canvass of votes, or make, sign, publish, or deliver any false return of an election, knowing the same to be false, or willfully deface, destroy, or conceal any statement or certificate entrusted to the individual's or organization's care" is guilty of a class C felony under this law.

The law was prompted by some actual election fraud. In October 2012, just months before the 2013 session, 10 members of the North Dakota State University football team pleaded guilty to election fraud , which included submitting falsified petitions for a ballot measure to legalize marijuana.

The players were convicted of a class A misdemeanor (and only one of them got a suspension from the football team, and that was only for one game ).

The fraud included the players creating thousands and thousands of false signatures. Their criminal actions kept the measure they were working for off the statewide ballot, denying voters a chance to decide it.

Lawmakers, justifiably dismayed at this outcome, decided to up the penalty from a misdemeanor to a felony.

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But not Becker. "We cannot allow these problems to go ignored," he wrote in this week's fundraising pitch. "We cannot have confidence in our Government without confidence in the integrity of our elections."

But in 2013, when he had a chance to boost the consequences for election fraud, just months after a notorious case of rampant fraud made headlines around the state and region, he demurred.

The House passed HB 1397 with 84 yeas and just 7 nays, with Becker among the latter group (see the House journal record of the vote below).

If Becker had his way, election fraud in North Dakota would still be a misdemeanor. Yet, today, he wants voters to believe election fraud is a top-of-the-heap issue for him.

Is that true? Or just peanuts he's throwing at the MAGA rubes?

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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