Irregularities found in 2nd NC county in disputed House race

09 December, 2018, 14:43 | Author: Sue Mclaughlin
  • Stacy Holcomb 57 stands in front of his home in Bladenboro N.C. where he says he was approached by a woman during the midterm elections and offered assistance submitting an absentee ballot an occurrence that many in Bladen County have said happened

Harris won 420 absentee votes in the general election in Bladen County to McCready's 258.

"We should see every action they take to ignore this situation for what it is ― a slap in the face to all voters in North Carolina who participated in the 2018 election with the expectation that every vote would be counted".

Investigators are examining whether Leslie McCrae Dowless, a longtime Bladen County operative who worked for a consultant to the Harris campaign, and a group of people loosely connected to him gathered unsealed absentee ballots, marked those ballots for their candidate, sealed them and signed as witnesses.

The state Board of Elections has twice declined to certify the outcome in the 9th District and now plans to hold a hearing on it later this month, which means a brand new election may have to be held. Dowless, moreover, may have been running schemes like this for years, financed partially by contributions from the Bladen County Republican Party. It is illegal in North Carolina for a third party to turn in absentee ballots. But the results for North Carolina's 9th Congressional District have come under intense scrutiny after reports surfaced that a political operative working for Republicans destroyed more than 1,000 ballots in Bladen County.

Members of the elections board - which is made up of four Democrats, four Republicans and one nonpartisan appointee - are treading cautiously as the possibility of a new election looms.

On Thursday, McCready told television station WSOC that he was withdrawing his concession and accused Harris of bankrolling "criminal activity".

In 2010, Harold "Butch" Pope, who paid Dowless $6,700, won 81% of the absentee votes cast there in a race for district attorney - but only 26% of those cast outside Bladen County.

The probe appears to focus on Bladen and Robeson counties, which each had unusually high rates of absentee ballot requests and unreturned absentee ballots.

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"The board needs to have a public hearing and lay out what they have, and unless they meet the standard of a substantial likelihood, numerically, that the outcome of this race was changed or could have been changed, then they need to certify Mark Harris as the victor and prosecute the offenders", said Dallas Woodhouse, executive director of the state Republican Party. "But there's no way Mr. Harris knew", said Woodhouse. It is possible the board could call for a new election.

"As you know, it's not just the Democrats who have a problem with how it went in North Carolina, the Republicans have a problem, too, because it affected their primary election", Pelosi added.

State Republicans, including party head Dallas Woodhouse, initially said Democrats were trying to steal the seat. But of the voters who turned in the absentee ballots, only 19 percent were registered Republicans. Johnson did not respond to requests for comment Monday and Tuesday. "And I didn't have anything to do with them".

Lorrin Freeman, Wake County's district attorney, also has opened a probe, Gannon said. He has been named Harris' incoming chief of staff, although whether Harris will be seated in Congress in January remains uncertain. In sworn testimony, Dowless said he never handled or filled out the actual ballots.

But he said there was "a lot of angst" among his campaign aides, who "were all upset about what happened". The state board of elections dismissed his complaint.

The elections board has said it will hold a hearing on the allegations on or before December 21.

Top state Republican officials said Thursday they could support a new election in the 9th Congressional District only if the board uncovers "an overwhelming amount of evidence" that fraud changed the outcome of the vote or that "there is a substantial likelihood that it could have been (changed)".

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