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McFeely: Cramer needlessly casts doubts on integrity of ND's elections

Senator questions says mail-in voting 'ripe for fraud' even though most counties in his home state use it

Senator-elect Kevin Cramer is The Forum's 2018 Area Person of the Year. After first announcing that he would stay in the House, he changed his mind and unseated Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., in the most expensive Senate race in North Dakota history. David Samson / The Forum

FARGO — U.S. Sen. Kevin Cramer, Republican from North Dakota, has gone down the mail-in voting rabbit hole in loyal defense of President Donald J. Trump, Republican from outer space.

Trump believes the push to rely heavily on mail-in voting, a safety precaution borne of the coronavirus pandemic, will lead to massive fraud. This has his minions, like Cramer, parroting Trump's words in hopes of receiving a pat on the head and an autographed vial of hydroxychloroquine.

Cramer tweeted "... @POTUS is right: if we have universal, mandatory mail-in voting, it would be ripe for fraud and abuse." Cramer told a TV host the "voting supply chain" would have too many opportunities for tomfoolery.

Later, Cramer told Capitol reporters that voters need to "stop being so afraid" and go to the polls in person on election day. Asked about rising death counts, Cramer suggested "they’re being inflated and that some deaths are being incorrectly attributed to coronavirus," according to one reporter's Twitter account.

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Cramer, always squirrelly, is now openly embracing unfounded conspiracy theories about mail-in voting and COVID deaths. He's willing to undermine the integrity of elections in the service of Trump.

It's funny for a politician from North Dakota to question voting by mail, especially one who admits has voted through the mail before.

That's because a majority of North Dakota counties have chosen to have their citizens vote by mail. In 2018, 32 of the state's 53 counties voted by mail. That year, 53,129 North Dakotans voted by mail and 43,657 used absentee ballots.

And in June's primary election, all of the state voted by mail because of the pandemic. Nearly 200,000 people requested ballots and almost 160,000 cast them, a huge turnout for a primary.

Much of Cramer's own state, because of geography or expense or lack of poll workers, chooses to vote by mail. Cramer's constituents, including thousands who voted for him in his 2018 victory, wholly trust the process.

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Yet Cramer squawks about fraud and undermines trust in elections in an effort to impress Trump.

I asked Secretary of State Al Jaeger if there were any instances of fraud either in the June election or in the past from the counties that vote mostly by mail?

"We are unaware of any voter fraud related to your question," Jaeger responded.

The same is true in other states. Cases of voter fraud, either with mail-in ballots or otherwise, are exceedingly rare.

Like his idol Trump, Cramer is trying to cast doubt on November's election results. He's helping set the table for the president, who polls show is trailing Democrat Joe Biden in most key swing states, to dispute the outcome by claiming voter fraud.

Cramer's words are hollow, given he comes from a state with a long history of successful mail-in voting. Early voting, absentee voting and voting by mail have all grown substantially in the last decade as North Dakotans have found those options to be simple, safe and secure.

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North Dakota runs clean elections. It's too bad one of the state's own U.S. senators is willing to trash them.

Opinion by Mike McFeely
Mike McFeely is a columnist for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead. He began working for The Forum in the 1980s while he was a student studying journalism at Minnesota State University Moorhead. He's been with The Forum full time since 1990, minus a six-year hiatus when he hosted a local radio talk-show.
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