- Sean Rayford/Getty Images
- Mark Harris, the Republican candidate for the House seat in North Carolina’s 9th congressional district, revealed on Thursday night that his campaign owed over $34,000 to a political operative who’s been accused of election fraud.
- The operative, Leslie McCrae Dowless, was contracted by a consulting group that Harris’ campaign paid for “Bladen absentee, early voting poll workers; reimbursement door to door,” according to an F.E.C. filing.
- Dowless is a convicted felon who has faced jail time for fraud and perjury, but has denied any wrongdoing in his work on this election.
Mark Harris, the Republican candidate for the House seat in North Carolina’s 9th congressional district, revealed on Thursday night that his campaign owed over $34,000 to a political operative who’s been accused of illegally collecting absentee ballots from voters and only sending in those in favor of Harris.
The operative, Leslie McCrae Dowless, was contracted by Red Dome Group, a Charlotte-based consulting group that Harris’ campaign hired to help turnout voters in rural Bladen County.
The debt was reported in a Federal Election Commission filing, which described the payment for “reimbursement payment for Bladen absentee, early voting poll workers; reimbursement door to door,” first reported on by The New York Times on Friday.
Dowless, court records show, is a convicted felon who has faced jail time for fraud and perjury. He has denied any wrongdoing in this election cycle.
North Carolina’s Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement refused to certify Harris’ 904-vote win over Democrat Dan McCready, who withdrew his concession on Thursday.
Dallas Woodhouse, executive director of the North Carolina Republican Party, said he would be open to holding a new election as the reports of voter fraud in Bladen County continue to mount. State investigators are currently looking into irregularities concerning absentee ballots, and the Board will hold an evidentiary hearing at some point on December 21 at the latest.
In a statement to INSIDER, Woodhouse said the state’s GOP believes the Board of Elections should hold a public hearing and “fully lay out the facts” regarding the fraud accusations.
“If they can show a substantial likelihood it could have changed the race, then we fully would support a new election,” he said. “If they hold a public hearing and simply can’t determine one way or the other then, we would not oppose a short delay on the question of certification until they have more answers.”
Several district residents have described having their absentee ballots collected, also known as “ballot harvesting,” which is illegal in North Carolina. Speaking to local news station WSOC 9, a Charlotte ABC affiliate, Cheryl Kinlaw, a woman who said she was paid $100 to pick up the ballots, said she didn’t think this was illegal because Dowless “has been doing it for years.”
“I feel bad now that I know that it wasn’t legal, but I didn’t know at the time,” she said.
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
And the numbers are striking. Elections experts have found that while 19% of absentee voters in Bladen County were registered Republicans, 62% of the County’s mailed-in ballots were votes for Harris and the GOP.
On Thursday, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi warned that the House could refuse to seat Harris if his victory is approved by the state Board.
“Any member-elect can object to the seating and swearing-in of another member-elect. We’ll see how that goes,” she said.
Mariana Alfaro contributed to this report.