“Democracy is messy.” That line likely conjures up images of partisan ads, flag-waving, yard signs, and rallies. But the reality is, the in-your-face back-and-forth of a campaign is only part of our democracy. For many people, this election is the first time they’ve closely watched ballot counting and the process of how it works. Unfortunately, false claims and anecdotes without evidence has made this routine process even messier for an exhausted public. It is time for elected officials to tell the truth, stop the pandering, and place a higher obligation to our democratic process.

Let’s try to give the benefit of the doubt to the public who are watching this process for the first time. I’ve fielded a lot questions about election processes. Some of them are genuine questions and concerns. For example, why some states can get their results in so quickly and others are delayed. Elections are run and designed by states. The slow process in some states has fueled allegations of a “stolen” election. Unfortunately, some states were prevented from updating their process in the unusual circumstances of 2020. This has allowed for the seed of doubt to be watered every day until the election is certified. Much that doubt is spread on social media platforms.

Many don’t want to hear explanations from me, a formerly elected Democratic politician in ND turned talk show host. I get that. Hell, I didn’t even want to write this post. It won’t be someone like me who convinces them that what they’re seeing in ballot counting is normal.

These explanations and assurances should be coming from those who have lived and been on the successful end of this same process for decades. The same people who understand the mechanics of our elections. This weekend in our state’s Capitol, those officials failed that test of leadership.

Kelly Armstrong, Kevin Cramer, and John Hoeven know how this process works. They’ve lived it. Instead of using their experience and position to explain and defend our legitimate democratic process, they pandered at a time when emotions were running high.

Kevin Cramer’s remarks stood out the most as disingenuous delivered that day. Earlier last week, Cramer suggested Trump’s approach to mail ballots was a “mistake.” Now, as those same mail-in ballots are being counted, Cramer is lying. Some states were prohibited from counting mail-in ballots earlier by their Republican legislatures. Had they been allowed to count them in a more timely fashion, the election’s projected outcome may have been declared on election night instead of hours before a planned rally on Saturday.

Standing on the steps of the ND Capitol, Cramer went a step further. He claimed Republican poll watchers were being excluded from watching ballots be counted in Philadelphia. This is not true. Kevin knows this. Both parties have equal representation to watch votes being counted. Take it from Republican Philadelphia City Commissioner who was on 60 Minutes the Sunday after the election.

There was nothing bold from our federal delegation standing in front our state’s Capitol and pushing misinformation. It was beyond disappointing. The public would have been better served with honesty, an explanation of how this works, and a rally to stay engaged in future elections. It was a moment to cool the temperature. Unfortunately it slipped into primal political instincts.

I believe a lot of people are seeking out ways to come together as a nation. Detoxify our political discourse. Count me in that group of looking at how I can do better. Others may need guidance that should come from someone in trusted positions. Our elected officials displayed in Bismarck they aren’t yet ready to provide that kind of leadership.

Tyler Axness