Last month’s initial election results in Bladen County showed Republican Mark Harris defeating Democrat Dan McCready for a U.S. House seat by fewer than 1,000 votes. 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.
GOP Rep. Robert Pittenger told The Washington Post that he lost his primary to Harris in May by a small margin. Though this wasn’t by itself a cause for concern, Harris had earned 437 absentee mail-in votes to Pittenger’s 17, he told the publication.
On Monday, the Charlotte Observer reported that Leslie McCrae Dowless ― a man who worked as an “independent contractor” for Harris’ campaign in Bladen County ― was possibly connected to suspicious discrepancies in absentee ballot totals that could have affected the Harris-McCready election. Dowless has worked on campaigns in Bladen County for decades, The Post reported.
In 2016, Dowless was accused of working on an illegal ballot harvesting operation that led to a public hearing, according to the Post. Dowless was previously convicted of perjury in 1990 and felony fraud in 1992, according to court records obtained by the Charlotte Observer.
The North Carolina State Board of Elections and Ethics said it was now investigating “claims of irregularities and fraudulent activities related to absentee by-mail voting and potentially other matters in the 9th Congressional District contest.” And Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) called for an emergency hearing on the possible election fraud.
“While the Republican majority is once again chasing conspiracies, real election fraud is playing out right before us in North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District,” Connolly, the vice ranking member of the House Oversight Committee, said in a statement. “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.”