North Carolina Election Official: Sure Looks Like Fraud to Us

Photo: Chuck Burton (AP)

The massive shitshow in North Carolina’s ninth congressional district may be nearing a dramatic end, as on Monday election officials began a state hearing into allegations of fraud by Republican Mark Harris’s campaign.

The N.C. ninth race went wildly off the rails almost immediately after the 2018 midterms in November, as election officials quickly noticed some “irregularities” with absentee ballots collected in a few pivotal counties. The fraud allegations center around Leslie McCrae Dowless Jr., an extremely shady N.C. political operative paid by the Harris campaign. Dowless allegedly ran a ballot-collecting scam where he and his staff took unfilled absentee ballots from voters and filled them in for Harris. Harris won the race by only 905 votes, beating Democrat Dan McCready (who retracted his concession and vowed to fight after the allegations came out.) Harris, meanwhile, has spent that past months trying to keep his head down, at one point running out of a fire exit to avoid talking to the press.

Per the Hill, N.C. State Elections Director Kim Strach did not mince words when describing Dowless’s alleged crimes (emphasis mine):

In her opening remarks, Strach detailed an alleged ballot-tampering scheme operated by Leslie McCrae Dowless, a political operative in rural Bladen County who she said hired workers to falsify absentee ballot request forms, collect absentee ballots and falsify witness certifications in an apparent violation of state election laws.

The alleged scheme was coordinated and well resourced, Strach said. She also said that security at the elections office in Bladen County, where some of the alleged ballot tampering took place, had been insufficient.

Dowless allegedly paid workers $150 for every 50 absentee ballot request forms they collected and $125 for every 50 absentee ballots collected, Strach said. What’s more, Red Dome, a consulting firm hired by Harris’s campaign, paid Dowless $131,275 between July 3, 2017, and Nov. 7, 2018.

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Lisa Britt, Dowless’ step daughter, is testifying right now, and appears to have just admitted to, yeah, committing some pretty obvious fraud there.

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Per Leigh Ann Caldwell, Strach also said that there were efforts to disrupt the State’s investigation.

The hearings began today, and could last until Wednesday this week. According to Vox, the state’s five-member election board will then face a binary choice: certify Harris’s win, or call for a new election. There are three Democrats and two Republicans on the election board, but a vote for a new election needs at least four votes to go through, meaning at least one Republican would have to cross party lines in the name of not electing an allegedly fraudulent Congressman. We’ll see if that happens!

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This is a developing story — if the elections board votes today we’ll update this blog.

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