Dirty, Rotten Politics in North Carolina?
Allegations of voter fraud could lead to a new election in the North Carolina congressional race.
According to unofficial ballots Republican Mark Harris led Democrat Dan McCready by 905 votes in the 9th Congressional District. However, allegations of election-stealing and other irregularities could necessitate a new election.
Investigators and lawyers have approximately one month to further inspect allegations of unethical activities that were brought to the attention of the North Carolina board of elections, a bipartisan board made up of four Republicans, four Democrats and one independent. In fact, the board unanimously voted not to certify the election until the investigation is complete.
Republican campaign consultant Leslie McCrae Dowless is at the center of the investigation. Dowless, who was convicted of felony perjury in 1992 and served prison time for felony fraud in 1995, was a contractor for Harris’ chief strategist in the campaign. Having worked on get-out-the-vote efforts for various political candidates over the years, Dowless put his name on an elections protest and allegedly schemed to run an “absentee ballot mill.”
Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman told The Washington Post in an interview that comments Dowless made at a State Board of Elections hearing in December 2016 was part of what sparked her investigation.
According to CNN, “One affidavit filed by the Democratic Party alleges Republican McCrae Dowless, who has a history of being accused of improper voter activity in Bladen County, could financially benefit from handling absentee ballots for the Harris campaign. Dowless is also alleged to have claimed he had 80 people working for him on two races, including the 9th District. Another affidavit alleged Dowless said he’d receive a $40,000 bonus if Harris won the election.”
When asked by the board about his own absentee ballot activities, Dowless replied that in 2016, he hired people to encourage voters to decline absentee ballot request forms. Technically, this action is legal, and Dowless affirmed he never personally filled out or handled the ballots.
Also noteworthy is the fact that voters recalled in affidavits offered by the state Democratic Party a woman who came to their homes to collect their absentee ballots, whether or not they were properly filled out. According to state law, “harvesting” of ballots is illegal. The appropriate way to submit an absentee ballot is either by mail or in person by the voter (or a close relative).
If the allegations are indeed correct, “this is the biggest absentee fraud in a generation or two in North Carolina,” election law expert and former legislative staff attorney Gerry Cohen said. “North Carolina has a long history of this kind of thing, particularly in rural areas.”
The North Carolina board of elections has confirmed it will have a hearing on the allegations on or before Dec. 21, 2018.