The fighting over close national elections can be vicious. We saw that last year in the heated battle between Joe Biden and Donald Trump where many of the latter's supporters made claims of vote fraud.

But it's not a recent phenomenon. Turn back the clock and you find Democrats in the George W. Bush-era hatching conspiracy theories about Diebold voting machines.

Given the reality of that sort of turbulence, does it make any sense to make the election process less transparent? Less open to public scrutiny?

A bill before the Legislature in Bismarck would do just that. Senate Bill 2271, introduced by Sen. Robert Erbele, a Republican from Lehr, would hide the vote counts for North Dakota's presidential elections from the public.

WDAY logo
listen live
watch live
Newsletter signup for email alerts

State officials would still be allowed to release percentage figures representing the share of the vote each candidate got, but the actual vote numbers would be a secret until after the Electoral College votes from each state are cast.

Surprised you haven't heard of this bill? Don't be. It hasn't gotten much attention, despite having sailed through the Senate already on a lopsided 43-3 vote.

It's "almost a politburo situation from Soviet Russia," Saul Anuzis said on this episode of Plain Talk.

Anuzis is a long-time Republican leader - he led the Michigan GOP for years and was twice a candidate for chairman of the Republican National Committee - and of late is a proponent of an interstate compact promoting the national popular vote. He says Erbele's bill is being pushed by a lobbyist opposed to the national popular vote, the idea being that North Dakota can't participate in any national popular vote proposals if we don't report our popular vote totals.

Anuzis called it "horrible public policy" and a "secret ballot situation" that conflicts with the basic principles of fair and open elections. He also said it conflicts with federal law.

This debate isn't really about how you feel about the national popular vote. I'm deeply suspicious of proposals to change the status quo, including Anuzis' proposal.

This is about government transparency.

Our society has a hard enough time fighting against conspiracy mongers to get the public to focus on facts. That fight will only get harder if we take some of the available facts off the table.

Delaying public reports of vote counts for any race on the ballot, up to and including the presidential races, shortens the time window in which potential fraud might be detected. Perhaps even worse, it could create an information vacuum in which conspiracies about vote counts can thrive.

Other states, including South Dakota and New Hampshire, have voted down similar proposals.

Anuzis' arguments in favor of a compact among the states to promote the national popular vote might not be your cup of tea, but that's not the point.

However you feel about this issue, making our elections in North Dakota less transparent is not the answer.

To subscribe to Plain Talk, click here.

To comment on this article, visit www.sayanythingblog.com

Rob Port, founder of SayAnythingBlog.com, is a Forum Communications commentator. Reach him on Twitter at @robport or via email at rport@forumcomm.com.