The North Carolina State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement is currently investigating accusations of election fraud in North Carolina's 9th Congressional District, where the GOP candidate, controversial Charlotte Baptist pastor Mark Harris, defeated Democratic Marine veteran and green energy investor Dan McCready by just 905 votes. So far, he details of that investigation have been mostly unknown, other than that it concerns problems with absentee ballots in Bladen and Robeson Counties, and might implicate Bladen County Soil and Water Conservation vice chairman Leslie McCrae Dowless, Jr.
Now, new details are coming to light from an investigation by WSOC Channel 9, that implicate Harris and Dowless in a potentially illegal scheme to collect absentee ballots:
What Channel 9 found appears to be a targeted effort to illegally pick up ballots, in which even the person picking them up had no idea whether those ballots were even delivered to the elections board.
Consistently, Channel 9 found the same people signing as witnesses for the people voting, which is very rare.
The investigation found that out of 159 ballots obtained by Channel 9, just eight people had acted as witnesses, and three of those people witnessed over 40 ballots apiece. Furthermore, one witness, Ginger Eason, told Channel 9 that she was paid $75 to $100 for her efforts and instructed to tell voters about Harris and Bladen County Sheriff Jim McVicker, and that "That's who [Dowless] was working for." Eason also said that she gave the ballots directly to Dowless, rather than mailing them in, and admitted she doesn't know what happened to them after she dropped them off:
This is a stunning admission in the #NC09 election controversy by @wsoctv’s @JoeBrunoWSOC9 on what one of the “harvesters” did with the absentee by mail ballots she picked up: #ncpol pic.twitter.com/NtcmJOVnpE
— Michael Bitzer (@BowTiePolitics) December 3, 2018
The described scheme to pay ballot harvesters to deliver absentee ballots directly to a campaign strategist is illegal. Moreover, Eason's claim that Dowless was working for the Harris campaign matches an affidavit submitted to the Board of Elections by a voter who overheard people at a polling station remarking that Dowless would be paid a $40,000 bonus if Harris won the election. Taken together, this evidence is incredibly damning.
According to Daily Kos Elections, the number of absentee ballots cast for Harris in Bladen and Robeson Counties are more than enough to have swung the result of the election. However, North Carolina state law does not actually require the Board of Elections to prove the fraud scheme was decisive in the outcome in order to throw out the election and order a new one.
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