Investigate Fully


March 4, 2019

The biggest news in North Carolina last month was the unanimous decision by the State Board of Elections, comprised of three Democrats and two Republicans, to vacate the apparent win by Republican Mark Harris and hold a new election for the 9th Congressional District. Four days of testimony in the evidentiary hearing revealed numerous illegal activities involving Harris’ campaign.

On the first day of the hearing, Kim Strach, executive director of the State Board of Elections, said the evidence would show “a coordinated, unlawful and substantially resourced absentee ballot scheme” in parts of the 9th Congressional District. The evidence was so compelling that Harris, who initially claimed the hearing was the result of a “liberal activist” on the State Board of Elections, said a new election should be held. Now that the State Board of Elections has determined a new election is required, it is time for state and federal prosecutors to fully investigate those involved.

Last week Leslie McCrae Dowless and five of his accomplices were arrested in Wake County for a variety of illegal acts affecting the election. During the evidentiary hearing, people testified that Dowless paid them to collect absentee ballots – an illegal act known as “harvesting”– to forge their names as witnesses, to fill unmarked boxes in some races, and to post-date collected absentee ballots. Lisa Britt testified Dowless twice attempted to influence her testimony, and Dowless’ ex-wife testified that he had gone to the local of board of elections and seen who had voted before the absentee vote tallies were to be legally released.

While Dowless and his accomplices carried out the actual voter fraud, others should be investigated as well:

•Members of the elections boards and elections staff in Bladen and Robeson counties, where the voting irregularities took place. There is evidence that someone on those boards released the absentee vote tallies too early. Given the numerous transgressions, it’s difficult to believe no one on these boards or staff knew something illegal was occurring. 

•Mark Harris. Harris said in numerous interviews after the election irregularities had  come to light that he had received no warnings Dowless might be involved in illegal election activities. However, one of Harris’ sons, John, who is an assistant U.S. attorney in the Eastern District of North Carolina, informed his father that “collecting absentee ballots was a felony” and he was “fairly certain” Dowless was engaged in illegal election activities. John Harris also testified, “I raised red flags at the time the decision was made to hire Mr. Dowless.” 

Harris, however, disregarded his son’s warnings and two weeks later made a personal check of $450 to Patriots For Progress, an independent PAC (political action committee) operated in part by Dowless. Coordinating campaigns with independent PACs is also illegal.

In addition, Mark Harris also said Dowless was hired and paid through Red Dome Group, but Harris actually hired Dowless before he hired Red Dome Group, the latter of which is headed by Andy Yates.

Harris and his campaign also did not make available all of the documents the State Board of Elections has requested. Some 800 pages of documents were made available only after the first three days of testimony.

•Andy Yates. Yates paid Dowless a total of $131,000 without ever receiving any written or formal invoices. Yates said he had no reason to believe Dowless was operating illegally, but John Harris also had warned Yates about Dowless. 

•(Former) Judge Marion Warren. Warren put Harris directly in contact with Dowless, a convicted felon. It’s unseemly for a judge to put a congressional candidate in touch with a convicted felon for the purpose of garnering more absentee votes. 

Whoever is charged and found guilty in this massive voter fraud should be severely punished. Some of these people committed large-scale voter fraud, enough to possibly reverse the will of the voters in the 9th Congressional District. They have caused the law-abiding citizens of the 9th Congressional District to be without representation in the current U.S. Congress. They eventually will cost the taxpayers millions of dollars in investigating and prosecuting their illegal activities, as well as the money and time to hold a new election. They have undermined the fundamental belief on which our democracy is founded, the belief that our votes and elections are not “tainted.” Their punishment must serve as a deterrent to protect the integrity and public confidence of any future elections.


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