As investigations continue into absentee ballot irregularities in North Carolina's 9th Congressional District, the Washington Post reports that GOP candidate Mark Harris hired the controversial campaign operative at the heart of the probe despite warnings that he was known for unscrupulous methods of gaining votes:
Harris sought out the operative, Leslie McCrae Dowless, after losing a 2016 election in which Dowless had helped one of Harris’s opponents win an overwhelming share of the mail-in vote in a key county.
State and local investigators say that whether Harris knew that his campaign may have engaged in improper tactics has become a focus of the expanding probes into whether election irregularities affected the 9th District election, in which Harris leads Democrat Dan McCready by 905 votes.
The North Carolina State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement refused to certify the results of the election following a series of sworn affidavits from absentee voters, chiefly elderly African-Americans, asserting that people were mysteriously showing up to collect their ballots, with one woman even telling a voter she would fill in the unfinished parts.
Ballot harvesters subsequently told local news they had been paid to round up these ballots and illegally deliver them to Dowless, and evidence suggests that over 1,000 ballots were destroyed — more than enough to decide the outcome of the race. The voting irregularities, which are now the subject of a full-scale criminal investigation, occurred in Bladen and Robeson Counties, where Harris won absentee voters 61 to 38 despite the fact that registered Democrats outnumbered the GOP in requested ballots 42 to 19.
There is evidence that Dowless has been running absentee ballot fraud schemes of this sort for years. Indeed, he may even have engaged in these tactics in the primary, as defeated GOP Rep. Robert Pittenger's aides attempted to warn the state Republican Party of irregularities after Harris' upset win earlier this year.
With all of these revelations coming to light, even Republican leadership is now calling for a new election.
- Witness directly implicates Republican in scheme to collect absentee ballots and deliver them to local right-wing strategist
- This top Republican signaled he may turn on North Carolina GOP candidate as evidence of election fraud piles up
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